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1882 LIBRA 

Brigham Younqf Ljiiyersity 


3 1197 22387 6597 


brought together by 


acquired by the Library with the 
assistance of the classes of 1 942, 
1 948, I95I, I960, and I96I. 





Author of " Leaves of Grass." 



No. 23 South Ninth Street. 


Copyright, 1882. 

All Rights Reserved. 




A Happy Day's Command, ...... 7 

Answer to an Insisting Friend, , 8 

Genealogy — Van Velsor and Whitman The Old Whitman and Van Velsor Cemeteries, 9 

The Maternal Homestead Two Old Family Interiors, . . , 11 

Paumanok, and My Life on it as Child and Young Man, . . 12 

My First Reading — Lafayette, 14 

Printing Office — Old Brooklyn, 15 

Growth — Health — Work My Passion for Ferries, 16 

Broadway Sights, -^ . Z y 

Omnibus Jaunts and Drivers, 18 

Plays and Operas too, jo 

Through Eight Years Sources of Character — Results — 1860, 20 

Opening of the Secession War National Uprising and Volunteering, 21 

Contemptuous Feeling Battle of Bull Run, July, 1861, 22 

The Stupor Passes — Something Else Begins, 25 

Down at the Front After First Fredericksburg, 26 

Back to Washington, 27 

Fifty Hours Left Wounded on the Field, 28 

Hospital Scenes and Persons, 29 

Patent-Office Hospital, 30 

The White House by Moonlight An Army Hospital Ward 31 

A Connecticut Case Two Brooklyn Boys, 32 

A Secesh Brave The Wounded from Chancellorsville * 33 

A Night Battle over a Week Since, 34 

Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier Some Specimen Cases, 36 

My Preparations for Visits, 38 

Ambulance Processions Bad Wounds — the Young, 39 

The Most Inspiriting of all War's Shows 39 

Battle of Gettysburg A Cavalry Camp, 40 

A New York Soldier, ." . . 41 

Home-Made Music, 42 

Abraham Lincoln, 43 

Heated Term Soldiers and Talks, 44 

Death of a Wisconsin Officer, 45 

Hospitals Ensemble, 46 

A Silent Night Ramble, 47 

Spiritual Characters among the Soldiers Cattle Droves about Washington, ... 48 

Hospital Perplexity, 48 

Down at the Front, 49 

Paying the Bounties Rumors, Changes, &c Virginia, 50 

Summer of 1864, 51 

A New Army Organization fit for America Death of a Hero, 52 

Hospital Scenes — Incidents, 53 

A Yankee Soldier Union Prisoners South, 54 

Deserters A Glimpse of War's Hell-Scenes, 55 

Gifts — Money — Discrimination Items from My Note Books, -57 

A Case from Second Bull Run Army Surgeons — Aid Deficiencies 58 

The Blue Everywhere A Model Hospital, 59 

Boys in the Army Burial of a Lady Nurse, 60 

Female Nurses for Soldiers Southern Escapees, 61 

The Capitol by Gas-Light ...The Inauguration, 63 




Attitude of Foreign Governments During the War, . , 64 

The Weather — Does it Sympathize with These Times ? 65 

Inauguration Ball Scene at the Capitol, 66 

A Yankee Antique, 67 

Wounds and Diseases.. .....Death of President Lincoln, 68 

Sherman's Army's Jubilation — its Sudden Stoppage, 69 

No Good Portrait of Lincoln Releas'd Union Prisoners from South, 69 

Death of a Pennsylvania Soldier, 71 

The Armies Returning, 72 

The Grand Review Western Soldiers, 73 

A Soldier on Lincoln Hwo Brothers, one South, one North, 74 

Some Sad Cases yet, 75 

Calhoun's Real Monument Hospitals Closing, 76 

Typical Soldiers, 77 

" Convulsiveness " Three Years Summ'd up, 78 

The Million Dead, too, Summ'd up, 79 

The Real War will never get in the Books, .80 

An Interregnum Paragraph, 81 

New Themes Enter'd Upon, . ; 82 

Entering a Long Farm-Lane To the Spring and Brook An Early Summer Reveille, 83 

Birds Migrating at Midnight Bumble-Bees 84 

Cedar-Apples, 86 

Summer Sights and Indolences Sundown Perfume — Quail-Notes — the Hermit Thrush, 87 

A July Afternoon by the Pond, 88 

Locusts and Katy-Dids The Lesson of a Tree, • 89 

Autumn Side-Bits, 91 

The Sky — Days and Nights — Happiness, 92 

Colors — A Contrast November 8, '76, 93 

Crows and Crows A Winter-Day on the Sea-Beach, 94 

Sea-Shore Fancies, 95 

In Memory of Thomas Paine, 96 

A Two Hours' Ice-Sail, 97 

Spring Overtures — Recreations One of the Human Kinks 98 

An Afternoon Scene The Gates Opening, 99 

The Common Earth, the Soil ...Birds and Birds and Birds, 100 

Full-Starr'd Nights, 101 

Mulleins and Mulleins Distant Sounds, 102 

A Sun-Bath — Nakedness, 103 

The Oaks and I, 104 

A Quintette, 105 

The First Frost — Mems Three Young Men's Deaths, 106 

February Days, 108 

A Meadow Lark.. ...... .Sundown Lights, no 

Thoughts Under an Oak — A Dream Clover and Hay Perfume An Unknown, in 

Bird Whistling Horse-Mint Three of Us, 112 

Death of William Cullen Bryant, 113 

Jaunt up the Hudson Happiness and Raspberries, 114 

A Specimen Tramp Family, 115 

Manhattan from the Bay, 116 

Human and Heroic New York, 117 

Hours for the Soul 118 

Straw-Color'd and other Psyches, 121 

A Night Remembrance Wild Flowers, 122 



A Civility Too Long Neglected, 123 

Delaware River — Days and Nights Scenes on Ferry and River — Last Winter's Nights, 124 

The First Spring Day on Chestnut Street, 128 

Up the Hudson to Ulster County, 129 

Days at J. B.'s — Turf Fires— Spring Songs, 130 

Meeting a Hermit An Ulster County Waterfall Walter Dumont and his Medal, 131 

Hudson River Sights, 132 

Two City Areas Certain Hours, 133 

Central Park Walks and Talks, 134 

A Fine Afternoon, 4 to 6, 135 

Departing of the Big Steamers Two Hours on the Minnesota, 136 

Mature Summer Days and Nights, 137 

Exposition Building — New City Hall — River-Trip, 138 

Swallows on the River Begin a Long Jaunt West In the Sleeper, 139 

Missouri State, 140 

Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas The Prairies — (and an Undeliver'd Speech,) . . . 141 

On to Denver — A Frontier Incident An Hour on Kenosha Summit 142 

An Egotistical " Find" New Scenes — New Joys, 143 

Steam-Power, Telegraphs, &c America's Back-Bone, 144 

The Parks Art Features, 145 

Denver Impressions, 146 

I Turn South, and then East Again, 147 

Unfulfill'd Wants — the Arkansas River A Silent Little Follower — the Coreopsis, . 148 

The Prairies and Great Plains in Poetry The Spanish Peaks — Evening on the Plains, 149 

America's Characteristic Landscape Earth's Most Important Stream, 150 

Prairie Analogies— the Tree Question Mississippi Valley Literature, 151 

An Interviewer's Item 152 

The Women of the West The Silent General, 153 

President Hayes's Speeches, 154 

St. Louis Memoranda Nights on the Mississippi, 155 

Upon our Own Land Edgar Poe's Significance, 156 

Beethoven's Septette, 158 

A Hint of Wild Nature Loafing in the Woods, 159 

A Contralto Voice ..Seeing Niagara to Advantage 160 

Jaunting to Canada Sunday with the Insane, 161 

Reminiscence of Elias Hicks Grand Native Growth, 162 

A Zollverein between the U. S. and Canada The St. Lawrence Line, 163 

The Savage Saguenay ...Capes Eternity and Trinity 164 

Chicoutimi, and Ha-ha Bay The Inhabitants — Good Living, 165 

Cedar-Plums Like— Names, 165 

Death of Thomas Carlyle, 168 

Carlyle from American Points of View, 170 

A Couple of Old Friends — A Coleridge Bit, 178 

A Week's Visit to Boston, 179 

The Boston of To-Day My Tribute to Four Poets 180 

Millet's Pictures— Last Items, 181 

Birds, and a Caution, 182 

Samples of my Common-Place Book, 183 

My Native Sand and Salt Once More, 185 

Hot Weather New York 186 

" Custer's Last Rally," 187 

Some Old Acquaintances — Memories A Discovery of Old Age 188 

A Visit at the Last to R. W. Emerson 189 



Other Concord Notations, 190 

Boston Common — More of Emerson, 191 

An Ossianic Night — Dearest Friends, 192 

Only a New Ferry Boat Death of Longfellow 193 

Starting Newspapers, 194 

The Great Unrest of which We are a Part, 196 

By Emerson's Grave, 197 

At Present Writing — Personal After Trying a Certain Book, 198 

Final Confessions — Literary Tests, 199 

Nature and Democracy — Morality, . 200 


One or Two Index Items, 202 

Democratic Vistas 203 

Origins of Attempted Secession, 258 

Preface, 1855, to first issue of " Leaves of Grass,'' 263 

Preface, 1872, to "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free," 275 

Preface, 1876, to L. of G. and " Two Rivulets," Centennial Edition, 280 

Poetry To-Day in America — Shakspere — the Future, 288 

A Memorandum at a Venture, 302 

Death of Abraham Lincoln, 306 

Two Letters, • 315 

Notes Left Over. 
Nationality (and Yet), , 317 

Emerson's Books (the Shadows of Them), 319 

Ventures on an Old Theme, , 322 

British Literature, ■ 324 

Darwinism (then Furthermore), 326 

" Society," 327 

The Tramp and Strike Questions, 329 

Democracy in the New World 330 

Foundation Stages — then Others General Suffrage, Elections, &c. 331 

Who Gets the Plunder ? 332 

Friendship (the Real Article) Lacks and Wants Yet, 333 

Rulers Strictly Out of the Masses, 334 

Monuments — the Past and Present Little or Nothing New After All, 335 

A Lincoln Reminiscence, 335 

Freedom, 336 

Book-Classes — America's Literature Our Real Culmination, 357 

An American Problem The Last Collective Compaction, 338 

Pieces in Early Youth. 

Dough-Face Song, 339 Lingave's Temptation, 366 

Death in the School-Room, 340 Little Jane, 369 

One Wicked Impulse, 344 Dumb Kate, 370 

The Last Loyalist, 349 Talk to an Art Union Blood-Money, 372 

Wild Frank's Return, 353 Wounded in the House of Friends, . 373 

The Boy Lover, 357 Sailing the Mississippi at Midnight, . . 374 

The Child and the Profligate, . , , , 361 



Down in the Woods, July 2d, 1882. — If I do it at all I must 
delay no longer. Incongruous and full of skips and jumps as 
is that huddle of diary-jottings, war- memoranda of i862-'65, 
Nature-notes of 1877-81, with Western and Canadian observa- 
tions afterwards, all bundled up and tied by a big string, the 
resolution and indeed mandate comes to me this day, this hour, 
— (and what a day ! what an hour just passing ! the luxury of 
riant grass and blowing breeze, with all the shows of sun and sky 
and perfect temperature, never before so filling me body and soul) 
— to go home, untie the bundle, reel out diary-scraps and mem- 
oranda, just as they are, large or small, one after another, into 
print-pages,* and let the melange's lackings and wants of connec- 

* The pages from 8 to 20 are nearly verbatim an off-hand letter of mine 
in January, 1882, to an insisting friend. Following, I give some gloomy ex- 
periences. The war of attempted secession has, of course, been the distin- 
guishing event of my time. I commenced at the close of 1862, and contin- 
ued steadily through '63, '64, and '65, to visit the sick and wounded of the 
army, both on the field and in the hospitals in and around Washington city. 
From the first I kept little note- books for impromptu jottings in pencil to re- 
fresh my memory of names and circumstances, and what was specially wanted, 
&c. In these I brief d cases, persons, sights, occurrences in camp, by the bed- 
side, and not seldom by the corpses of the dead. Some were scratch'd down 
from narratives I heard and itemized while watching, or waiting, or tending 
somebody amid those scenes. I have dozens of such little note-books left, 
forming a special history of those years, for myself alone, full of associations 
never to be possibly said or sung. I wish I could convey to the reader 
the associations that attach to these soil'd and creas'd livraisons, each com- 
posed of a sheet or two of paper, folded small to carry in the pocket, and fast- 
en'd with a pin. I leave them just as I threw them by after the war, blotch'd 
here and there with more than one blood-stain, hurriedly written, sometimes 
at the clinique, not seldom amid the excitement of uncertainty, or defeat, or 
of action, or getting reacfy for it, or a march. Most of the pages from 26 to 
81 are verbatim copies of those lurid and blood-smutch' d little note-books. 

Very different are most of the memoranda that follow. Some time after the 
war ended I had a paralytic stroke, which prostrated me for several years. In 
18.76 I began to get over the worst of it. From this date, portions of several 
seasons, especially summers, I spent at a secluded haunt down in Camden 
county, New Jersey — Timber creek, quite a little river (it enters from the, 




tion take care of themselves. It will illustrate one phase of hu- 
manity anyhow; how few of life's days and hours (and they not 
by relative value or proportion, but by chance) are ever noted. 
Probably another point too, how we give long preparations for 
some object, planning and delving and fashioning, and then, 
when the actual hour for doing arrives, find ourselves still quite 
unprepared, and tumble the thing together, letting hurry and 
crudeness tell the story better than fine work. At any rate I obey 
my happy hour's command, which seems curiously imperative. 
May-be, if I don't do anything else, I shall send out the most 
wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed. 


You ask for items, details of my early life — of genealogy and 
parentage, particularly of the women of my ancestry, and of its 
far back Netherlands stock on the maternal side — of the region 
where I was born and raised, and my father and mother before 
me, and theirs before them — with a word about Brooklyn and 
New York cities, the times I lived there as lad and young man. 
You say you want to get at these details mainly as the go-befores 
and embryons of "Leaves of Grass." Very good ; you shall 
have at least some specimens of them all. I have often thought 
of the meaning of such things — that one can only encompass and 
complete matters of that kind by exploring behind, perhaps very 
far behind, themselves directly, and so into their genesis, ante- 
cedents, and cumulative stages. Then as luck would have it, I 
lately whiled away the tedium of a week's half-sickness and con- 
finement, by collating these very items for another (yet unful- 
fill'd, probably abandon'd,) purpose; and if you will be satisfied 
with them, authentic in date-occurrence and fact simply, and 
told my own way, garrulous- like, here they are. I shall not hesi- 
tate to make extracts, for I catch at any thing to save labor ; but 
those will be the best versions of what I want to convey. 

great Delaware, twelve miles away) — with primitive solitudes, winding 
stream, recluse and woody banks, sweet-feeding springs, and all the charms 
that birds, grass, wild-flowers, rabbits and squirrels, old oaks, walnut trees, 
&c, can bring. Through these times, and on these spots, the diary from page 
83 onward was mostly written. 

The Collect afterward gathers up the odds and ends of whatever pieces I 
can now lay hands on, written at various times past, and swoops all together like 
fish in a net. 

I suppose I publish and leave the whole gathering, first, from that eternal 
tendency to perpetuate and preserve which is behind all Nature, authors in- 
cluded; second, to symbolize two or three specimen interiors, personal and 
other, out of the myriads of my time, the middle range of the Nineteenth 
century in the New World ; a strange, unloosen'd, wondrous time. But the 
book is probably without any definite purpose that can be told in a statement. 



The later years of the last century found the Van Velsor family, 
my mother's side, living on their own farm at Cold Spring, Long 
Island, New York State, near the eastern edge of Queens county, 
about a mile from the harbor.* My father's side — probably the 
fifth generation from the first English arrivals in New England — 
were at the same time farmers on their own land — (and a fine 
domain it was, 500 acres, all good soil, gently sloping east and 
south, about one-tenth woods, plenty of grand old trees,) two or 
three miles off, at West Hills, Suffolk county. The Whitman 
name in the Eastern States, and so branching West and South, 
starts undoubtedly from one John Whitman, born 1602, in Old 
England, where he grew up, married, and his eldest son was born 
in 1629. He came over in the " True Love" in 1640 to America, 
and lived in Weymouth, Mass., which place became the mother- 
hive of the New-Englanders of the name : he died in 1692. His 
brother, Rev. Zechariah Whitman, also came over in the "True 
Love, ,, either at that time or soon after, and lived at Milford, 
Conn. A son of this Zechariah, named Joseph, migrated to 
Huntington, Long Island, and permanently settled there. 
Savage's "Genealogical Dictionary" (vol. iv, p. 524) gets the 
Whitman family establish'd at Huntington, per this Joseph, be- 
fore 1664. It is quite certain that from that beginning, and 
from Joseph, the West Hill Whitmans, and all others in Suffolk 
county, have since radiated, myself among the number. John 
and Zechariah both went to England and back again divers 
times; they had large families, and several of their children were 
born in the old country. We hear of the father of John and 
Zechariah, Abijah Whitman, who goes over into the 1500's, but 
we know little about him, except that he also was for some time 
in America. 

These old pedigree-reminiscences come up to me vividly from 
a visit I made not long since (in my 63d year) to West Hills, 
and to the burial grounds of my ancestry, both sides. I extract 
from notes of that visit, written there and then : 


July 2p, 1881. — After more than forty years' absence, (except a 
brief visit, to take my father there once more, two years before 
he died,) went down Long Island on a week's jaunt to the place 

* Long Island was settled first on the west end by the Dutch, from Hol- 
land, then on the east end by the English — the dividing line of the two 
nationalities being a little west of Huntington, where my father's folks lived, 
and where I was born. 


where I was born, thirty miles from New York city. Rode 
around the old familiar spots, viewing and pondering and dwell- 
ing long upon them, everything coming back to me. Went to 
the old Whitman homestead on the upland and took a view east- 
ward, inclining south, over the broad and beautiful farm lands 
of my grandfather (1780,) and my father. There was the new 
house (1810,) the big oak a hundred and fifty or two hundred 
years old; there the well, the sloping kitchen-garden, and a little 
way off even the well-kept remains of the dwelling of my great- 
grandfather (1750-' 60) still standing, with its mighty timbers 
and low ceilings. Near by, a stately grove of tall, vigorous black- 
walnuts, beautiful, Apollo-like, the sons or grandsons, no doubt, 
of black-walnuts during or before 1776. On the other side of 
the road spread the famous apple orchard, over twenty acres, the 
trees planted by hands long mouldering in the grave (my uncle 
Jesse's,) but quite many of them evidently capable of throwing 
out their annual blossoms and fruit yet. 

I now write these lines seated on an old grave (doubtless of a 
century since at least) on the burial hill of the Whitmans of many 
generations. Fifty and more graves are quite plainly traceable, 
and as many more decay'd out of all form — depress'd mounds, 
crumbled and broken stones, cover'd with moss — the gray and 
sterile hill, the clumps of chestnuts outside, the silence, just va- 
ried by the soughing wind. There is always the deepest eloquence 
of sermon or poem in any of these ancient graveyards of which 
Long Island has so many ; so what must this one have been to 
me? My whole family history, with its succession of links, from 
the first settlement down to date, told here — three centuries con- 
centrate on this sterile acre. 

The next day, July 30, I devoted to the maternal locality, and 
if possible was still more penetrated and impress' d. I write this 
paragraph on the burial hill of the Van Velsors, near Cold Spring, 
the most significant depository of the dead that could be im- 
agin'd, without the slightest help from art, but far ahead of it, 
soil sterile, a mostly bare plateau-flat of half an acre, the top of 
a hill, brush and well grown trees and dense woods bordering all 
around, very primitive, secluded, no visitors, no road (you can- 
not drive here, you have to bring the dead on foot, and follow 
on foot.) Two or three-score graves quite plain ; as many more 
almost rubb'd out. My grandfather Cornelius and my grand- 
mother Amy (Naomi) and numerous relatives nearer or remoter, 
on my mother's side, lie buried here. The scene as I stood or 
sat, the delicate and wild odor of the woods, a slightly drizzling 
rain, the emotional atmosphere of the place, and the inferr'd 
reminiscences, were fitting accompaniments. 



I went down from this ancient grave place eighty or ninety 
rods to the site of the Van Velsor homestead, where my mother 
was born (1795,) anc ^ where every spot had been familiar to me 
as a child and youth (1 825-' 40.) Then stood there a long 
rambling, dark-gray, shingle-sided house, with sheds, pens, a great 
barn, and much open road-space. Now of all those not a vestige 
left ; all had been pull'd down, erased, and the plough and har- 
row pass'd over foundations, road-spaces and everything, for many 
summers; fenced in at present, and grain and clover growing 
like any other fine fields. Only a big hole from the cellar, with 
some little heaps of broken stone, green with grass and weeds, 
identified the place. Even the copious old brook and spring 
seem'd to have mostly dwindled away. The whole scene, with 
what it arous'd, memories of my young days there half a century 
ago, the vast kitchen and ample fireplace and the sitting-room 
adjoining, the plain furniture, the meals, the house full of merry 
people, my grandmother Amy's sweet old face in its Quaker cap, 
my grandfather "the Major," jovial, red, stout, with sonorous 
voice and characteristic physiognomy, with the actual sights 
themselves, made the most pronounc'd half-day's experience of 
my whole jaunt. 

For there with all those wooded, hilly, healthy surroundings, 
my dearest mother, Louisa Van Velsor, grew up — (her mother, 
Amy Williams, of the Friends' or Quakers' denomination — the 
Williams family, seven sisters and one brother — the father and 
brother sailors, both of whom met their deaths at sea.) The 
Van Velsor people were noted for fine horses, which the men 
bred and train'd from blooded stock. My mother, as a young 
woman, was a daily and daring rider. As to the head of the 
family himself, the old race of the Netherlands, so deeply grafted 
on Manhattan island and in Kings and Queens counties, never 
yielded a more mark'd and full Americanized specimen than 
Major Cornelius Van Velsor. 

Of the domestic and inside life of the middle of Long Island, 
at and just before that time, here are two samples : 

" The Whitmans, at the beginning of the present century, lived in a long 
story-and-a-half farm-house, hugely timber'd, which is still standing. A 
great smoke-canopied kitchen, with vast hearth and chimney, form'd one end 
of the house. The existence of slavery in New York at that time, and the 
possession by the family of some twelve or fifteen slaves, house and field ser- 
vants, gave things quite a patriarchal look. The very young darkies could be 
seen, a swarm of them, toward sundown, in this kitchen, squatted in a circle 
on the floor, eating their supper of Indian pudding and milk. In the house, 


and in food and furniture, all was rude, but substantial. No carpets or stoves 
were known, and no coffee, and tea or sugar only for the women. Rousing 
wood fires gave both warmth and light on winter nights. Pork, poultry, beef, 
and all the ordinary vegetables and grains were plentiful. Cider was the 
men's common drink, and used at meals. The clothes were mainly homespun. 
Tourneys were made by both men and women on horseback. Both sexes 
labor' d with their own hands — the men on the farm — the women in the house 
and around it. Books were scarce. The annual copy of the almanac was a 
treat, and was pored over through the long winter evenings. I must not for- 
get to mention that both these families were near enough to the sea to behold 
it from the high places, and to hear in still hours the roar of the surf; the 
latter, after a storm, giving a peculiar sound at night Then all hands, male 
and female, went down frequently on beach and bathing parties, and the men 
on practical expeditions for cutting salt hay, and for clamming and fishing." 
— John Burroughs 's Notes. 

" The ancestors of Walt Whitman, on both the paternal and maternal sides* 
kept a good table, sustain' d the hospitalities, decorums, and an excellent so- 
cial reputation in the county, and they were often of mark'd individuality. 
If space permitted, I should consider some of the men worthy special descrip- 
tion; and still more some of the women. His great-gvandmother on the 
paternal side, for instance, was a large swarthy woman, who lived to a very 
old age. She smoked tobacco, rode on horseback like a man, managed the 
most vicious horse, and, becoming a widow in later life, went forth every day 
over her farm-lands, frequently in the saddle, directing the labor of her slaves, 
with language in which, on exciting occasions, oaths were not spared. The 
two immediate grandmothers were, in the best sense, superior women. The 
maternal one (Amy Williams before marriage) was a Friend, or Quakeress, 
of sweet, sensible character, housewifely proclivities, and deeply intuitive and 
spiritual. The other, (Hannah Brush,) was an equally noble, perhaps stronger 
character, lived to be very old, had quite a family of sons, was a natural lady, 
was in early life a school-mistress, and had great solidity of mind. W. W. 
himself makes much of the women of his ancestry." — The same. 

Out from these arrieres of persons and scenes, I was born May 
31, 18 19. And now to dwell awhile on the locality itself — as 
the successive growth -stages of my infancy, childhood, youth 
and manhood were all pass'd on Long Island, which I sometimes 
feel as if I had incorporated. I roam'd, as boy and man, and 
have lived in nearly all parts, from Brooklyn to Montauk point. 


Worth fully and particularly investigating indeed this Pau- 

manok, (to give the spot its aboriginal name,*) stretching east 

* " Paumanok, (or Paumanake, or Paumanack, the Indian name of Long 
Island,) over a hundred miles long; shaped like a fish — plenty of sea shore, 
sandy, stormy, uninviting, the horizon boundless, the air too strong for in- 
valids, the bays a wonderful resort for aquatic birds, the south-side meadows 
cover'd with salt hay, the soil of the island generally tough, but good for the 
locust-tree, the apple orchard, and the blackberry, and with numberless 
springs of the sweetest water in the world.. Years ago, among the bay-men 
— a strong, wild race, now extinct, or rather entirely changed — a native of 
Long Island was called a Paumanacker, or Creole- Paumanacker." — John 



through Kings, Queens and Suffolk counties, 120 miles altogether 
— on the north Long Island sound, a beautiful, varied and pic- 
turesque series of inlets, " necks" and sea-like expansions, for a 
hundred miles to Orient point. On the ocean side the great 
south bay dotted with countless hummocks, mostly small, some 
quite large, occasionally long bars of sand out two hundred rods 
to a mile-and-a-haif from the shore. While now and then, as at 
Rockaway and far east along the Hamptons, the beach makes . 
right on the island, the sea dashing up without intervention. 
Several light-houses on the shores east ; a long history of wrecks 
tragedies, some even of late years. As a youngster, I was in the 
atmosphere and traditions of many of these wrecks — of one or 
two almost an observer. Off Hempstead beach for example, was 
the loss of the ship "Mexico" in 1840, (alluded to in "the 
Sleepers" in L. of G.) And at Hampton, some years later, the 
destruction of the brig "Elizabeth," a fearful affair, in one of 
the worst winter gales, where Margaret Fuller went down, with 
her husband and child. 

Inside the outer bars or beach this south bay is everywhere 
comparatively shallow ; of cold winters all thick ice on the sur- 
face. As a boy I often went forth with a chum or two, on those 
frozen fields, with hand-sled, axe and eel-spear, after messes of 
eels. We would cut holes in the ice, sometimes striking quite 
an eel-bonanza, and filling our baskets with great, fat, sweet, 
white-meated fellows. The scenes, the ice, drawing the hand- 
sled, cutting holes, spearing the eels, &c, were of course just 
such fun as is dearest to boyhood. The shores of this bay, 
winter and summer, and my doings there in early life, are 
woven all through L. of G. One sport I was very fond of was 
to go on a bay-party in summer to gather sea-gull's eggs. (The 
gulls lay two or three eggs, more than half the size of hen's 
eggs, right on the sand, and leave the sun's heat to hatch 

The eastern end of Long Island, the Peconic bay region, I 
knew quite well too — sail'd more than once around Shelter 
island, and down to Montauk — spent many an hour on Turtle 
hill by the old light-house, on the extreme point, looking out 
over the ceaseless roll of the Atlantic. I used to like to go down 
there and fraternize with the blue-fishers, or the annual squads of 
sea-bass takers. Sometimes, along Montauk peninsula, (it is 
some 15 miles long, and good grazing,) met the strange, unkempt, 
half- barbarous herdsmen, at that time living there entirely aloof 
from society or civilization, in charge, on those rich pasturages, 
of vast droves of horses, kine or sheep, own'd by farmers of the 
eastern towns. Sometimes, too, the few remaining Indians, or 


half-breeds, at that period left on Montauk peninsula, but now I 
believe altogether extinct. 

More in the middle of the island were the spreading Hemp- 
stead plains, then (1830-' 40) quite prairie-like, open, uninhabited, 
rather sterile, cover'd with kill-calf and huckleberry bushes, yet 
plenty of fair pasture for the cattle, mostly milch-cows, who fed 
there by hundreds, even thousands, and at evening, (the plains 
too were own'd by the towns, and this was the use of them in 
common,) might be seen taking their way home, branching off 
regularly in the right places. I have often been out on the edges 
of these plains toward sundown, and can yet recall in fancy the 
interminable cow- processions, and hear the music of the tin or 
copper bells clanking far or near, and breathe the cool of the 
sweet and slightly aromatic evening air, and note the sunset. 

Through the same region of the island, but further east, ex- 
tended wide central tracts of pine and scrub-oak, (charcoal was 
largely made here,) monotonous and sterile. But many a good 
day or half-day did I have, wandering through those solitary 
cross-roads, inhaling the peculiar and wild aroma. Here, and all 
along the island and its shores, I spent intervals many years, all 
seasons, sometimes riding, sometimes boating, but generally afoot, 
(I was always then a good walker,) absorbing fields, shores, marine 
incidents* characters, the bay-men, farmers, pilots — always had a 
plentiful acquaintance with the latter, and with fishermen — went 
every summer on sailing trips — always liked the bare sea-beach, 
south side, and have some of my happiest hours on it to this day. 

As I write, the whole experience comes back to me after the 
lapse of forty and more years — the soothing rustle of the waves, 
and the saline smell — boyhood's times, the clam-digging, bare- 
foot, and with trowsers roll'd up — hauling down the creek — the 
perfume of the sedge-meadows — the hay-boat, and the chowder 
and fishing excursions \ — or, of later years, little voyages 
down and out New York bay, in the pilot boats. Those same 
later years, also, while living in Brooklyn, (1 836-' 50) I went reg- 
ularly every week in the mild seasons down to Coney island, at 
that time a long, bare unfrequented shore, which I had all to my- 
self, and where I loved, after bathing, to race up and down the 
hard sand, and declaim Homer or Shakspere to the surf and 
sea-gulls by the hour. But I am getting ahead too rapidly, and 
must keep more in my traces. 

From 1824 to '28 our family lived in Brooklyn in Front, Cran- 
berry and Johnson streets. In the latter my father built a nice 
house for a home, and afterwards another in Tillary street. We 



occupied them, one after the other, but they were mortgaged, and 
we lost them. I yet remember Lafayette's visit.* Most of these 
years I went to the public schools. It must have been about 
1829 or '30 that I went with my father and mother to hear Elias 
Hicks preach in a ball-room on Brooklyn heights. At about 
the same time employ 'd as a boy in an office, lawyers', father 
and two sons, Clarke's, Fulton street, near Orange. I had a nice 
desk and window-nook to myself; Edward C. kindly help'd me 
at my handwriting and composition, and, (the signal event of my 
life up to that time,) subscribed for me to a big circulating 
library. For a time I now revel'd in romance-reading of all 
kinds; first, the "Arabian Nights," all the volumes, an amazing 
treat. Then, with sorties in very many other directions, took in 
Walter Scott's novels, one after another, and his poetry, (and 
continue to enjoy novels and poetry to this day.) 


After about two years went to work in a weekly newspaper and 
printing office, to learn the trade. The paper was the " Long 
Island Patriot," owned by S. E. Clements, who was also post- 
master. An old printer in the office, William Hartshorne, a rev- 
olutionary character, who had seen Washington, was a special 
friend of mine, and I had many a talk with him about long 
past times. The apprentices, including myself, boarded with his 
grand-daughter. I used occasionally to go out riding with the 
boss, who was very kind to us boys ; Sundays he took us all to 
a great old rough, fortress-looking stone church, on Joralemon 
street, near where the Brooklyn city hall now is — (at that time 
broad fields and country roads everywhere around, f) Afterward 

* "On the visit of General Lafayette to this country, in 1824, he came over 
to Brooklyn in state, and rode through the city. The children of the schools 
turn'd out to join in the welcome. An edifice for a free public library for 
youths was just then commencing, and Lafayette consented to stop on his way 
and lay the corner-stone. Numerous children arriving on the ground, where 
a huge irregular excavation for the building was already dug, surrounded 
with heaps of rough stone, several gentlemen assisted in lifting the children 
to safe or convenient spots to see the ceremony. Among the rest, Lafayette, 
also helping the children, took up the five-year-old Walt Whitman, and press- 
ing the child a moment to his breast, and giving him a kiss, handed him down 
to a safe spot in the excavation." — jfohn Burroughs. 

f Of the Brooklyn of that time (1830-40) hardly anything remains, ex- 
cept the lines of the old streets. The population was then between ten and 
twelve thousand. Por a mile Fulton street was lined with magnificent elm 
trees. The character of the place was thoroughly rural. As a sample of com- 
parative values, it may be mention'd that twenty-five acres in what is now the 
most costly part of the city, bounded by Flatbush and Fulton avenues, were 
then bought by Mr. Parmentier, a French emigre, for $4000. Who remem- 
bers the old places as they were ? Who remembers the old citizens of that time ? 


I work'd on the "Long Island Star," Alden Spooner's paper. 
My father all these years pursuing his trade as carpenter and 
builder, with varying fortune. There was a growing family of 
children — eight of us — my brother Jesse the oldest, myself the 
second, my dear sisters Mary and Hannah Louisa, my brothers An- 
drew, George, Thomas Jefferson, and then my youngest brother, 
Edward, born 1835, and always badly crippled, as I am myself of 
late years. 


I develop'd (1833-4-5) into a healthy, strong youth (grew too 
fast, though, was nearly as big as a man at 15 or 16.) Our family 
at this period moved back to the country, my dear mother very 
ill for a long time, but recover'd. All these years I was down 
Long Island more or less every summer, now east, now west, 
sometimes months at a stretch. At 16, 17, and so on, was fond 
of debating societies, and had an active membership with them, 
off and on, in Brooklyn and one or two country towns on the 
island. A most omnivorous novel-reader, these and later years, 
devour'd everything I could get. Fond of the theatre, also, in 
New York, went whenever I could — sometimes witnessing fine 

1836-7, work'd as compositor in printing offices in New York 
city. Then, when little more than eighteen, and for a while af- 
terwards, went to teaching country schools down in Queens and 
Suffolk counties, Long Island, and "boarded round." (This 
latter I consider one of my best experiences and deepest lessons 
in human nature behind the scenes, and in the masses.) In '39, 
'40, 1 started and publish'd a weekly paper in my native town, 
Huntington. Then returning to New York city and Brooklyn, 
work'd on as printer and writer, mostly prose, but an occasional 
shy at "poetry." 

Living in Brooklyn or New York city from this time forward, 
my life, then, and still more the following years, was curiously 
identified with Fulton ferry, already becoming the greatest of 
its sort in the world for general importance, volume, variety, ra- 
pidity, and picturesqueness. Almost daily, later, ('50 to '60,) I 

Among the former were Smith & Wood's, Coe Downing's, and other public 
houses at the ferry, the old Ferry itself, Love lane, the Heights as then, the 
Wallabout with the wooden bridge, and the road out beyond Fulton street to 
the old toll-gate. Among the latter were the majestic and genial General 
Jeremiah Johnson, with others, Gabriel Furman, Rev. E. M. Johnson, Alden 
Spooner, Mr. Pierrepont, Mr. Joralemon, Samuel Willoughby, Jonathan Trot- 
ter, George Hall, Cyrus P. Smith, N. B. Morse, John Dikeman, Adrian Hege- 
man, William Udall, and old Mr. Duflon, with his military garden. 


cross'd on the boats, often up in the pilot-houses where I could 
get a full sweep, absorbing shows, accompaniments, surroundings. 
What oceanic currents, eddies, underneath — the great tides of 
humanity also, with ever-shifting movements. Indeed, I have 
always had a passion for ferries ; to me they afford inimitable, 
streaming, never-failing, living poems. The river and bay scenery, 
all about New York island, any time of a fine day — the hurrying, 
splashing sea-tides — the changing panorama of steamers, all sizes, 
often a string of big ones outward bound to distant ports — the 
myriads of white-sail'd schooners, sloops, skiffs, and the marvel- 
lously beautiful yachts — the majestic sound boats as they rounded 
the Battery and came along towards 5, afternoon, eastward 
bound — the prospect off towards Staten island, or down the Nar- 
rows, or the other way up the Hudson — what refreshment of 
spirit such sights and experiences gave me years ago (and many 
a time since.) My old pilot friends, the Balsirs, Johnny Cole, 
Ira Smith, William White, and my young ferry friend, Tom 
Gere — how well I remember them all. 

Besides Fulton ferry, off and on for years, I knew and fre- 
quented Broadway — that noted avenue of New York's crowded 
and mixed humanity, and of so many notables. Here I saw, 
during those times, Andrew Jackson, Webster, Clay, Seward, 
Martin Van Buren, filibuster Walker, Kossuth, Fitz Greene Hal- 
leck, Bryant, the Prince of Wales, Charles Dickens, the first 
Japanese ambassadors, and lots of other celebrities of the time. 
Always something novel or inspiriting ; yet mostly to me the hur- 
rying and vast amplitude of those never-ending human currents. 
I remember seeing James Fenimore Cooper in a court-room in 
Chambers street, back of the city hall, where he was carrying 
on a law case — (I think it was a charge of libel he had brought 
against some one.) I also remember seeing Edgar A. Poe, and 
having a short interview with him, (it must have been in 1845 or 
'6,) in his office, second story of a corner building, (Duane or Pearl 
street.) He was editor and owner or part owner of " the Broadway 
Journal." The visit was about a piece of mine he had published. 
Poe was very cordial, in a quiet way, appear' d well in person, 
dress, &c. I have a distinct and pleasing remembrance of his 
looks, voice, manner and matter; very kindly and human, but 
subdued, perhaps a little jaded. For another of my reminis- 
cences, here on the west side, just below Houston street, I once 
saw (it must have beep about 1832, of a sharp, bright January day) 
a bent, feeble but stout-built very old man, bearded, swathed in rich 
furs, with a great ermine cap on his head, led and assisted, almost 


carried, down the steps of his high front stoop (a dozen friends and 
servants, emulous, carefully holding, guiding him) and then lifted 
and tuck'd in a gorgeous sleigh, envelop' d in other furs, for a 
ride. The sleigh was drawn by as fine a team of horses as I ever 
saw. (You needn't think all the best animals are brought up 
nowadays ; never was such horseflesh as fifty years ago on Long 
Island, or south, or in New York city ; folks look'd for spirit 
and mettle in a nag, not tame speed merely.) Well, I, a boy of 
perhaps thirteen or fourteen, stopp'd and gazed long at the spec- 
tacle of that fur-swathed old man, surrounded by friends and ser- 
vants, and the careful seating of him in the sleigh. I' remember 
the spirited, champing horses, the driver with his whip, and a 
fellow-driver by his side, for extra prudence. The old man, the 
subject of so much attention, I can almost see now. It was John 
Jacob Astor. 

The years 1846, '47, and there along, see me still in New York 
city, working as writer and printer, having my usual good health, 
and a good time generally. 

One phase of those days must by no means go unrecorded — 
namely, the Broadway omnibuses, with their drivers. The vehi- 
cles still (I write this paragraph in 1881) give a portion of the 
character of Broadway — the Fifth avenue, Madison avenue, and 
Twenty-third street lines yet running. But the flush days of the 
old Broadway stages, characteristic and copious, are over. The 
Yellow-birds, the Red-birds, the original Broadway, the Fourth 
avenue, the Knickerbocker, and a dozen others of twenty or thirty 
years ago, are all gone. And the men specially identified with 
them, and. giving vitality an.d meaning to them — the drivers — a 
strange, natural, quick-eyed and wondrous race — (not only Rab- 
elais and Cervantes would have gloated upon them, but Homer 
and Shakspere would) — how well I remember them, and must 
here give a word about them. How many hours, forenoons and 
afternoons — how many exhilarating night-times I have had — 
perhaps June or July, in cooler air — riding the whole length of 
Broadway, listening to some yarn, (and the most vivid yarns ever 
spun, and the rarest mimicry) — or perhaps I declaiming some 
stormy passage from Julius Caesar or Richard, (you could roar as 
loudly as you chose in that heavy, dense, uninterrupted street- 
bass.) Yes, I knew all the drivers then, Broadway Jack, Dress- 
maker, Balky Bill, George Storms, Old Elephant, his brother 
Young Elephant (who came afterward,) Tippy, Pop Rice, Big 
Frank, Yellow Joe, Pete Callahan, Patsy Dee, and dozens more ; 
for there were hundreds. They had immense qualities, largely 
animal — eating, drinking, women— great personal pride, in their 


way — perhaps a few slouches here and there, but I should have 
trusted the general run of them, in their simple good-will and 
honor, under all circumstances. Not only for comradeship, and 
sometimes affection — great studies I found them also. (I sup- 
pose the critics will laugh heartily, but the influence of those 
Broadway omnibus jaunts and drivers and declamations and es- 
capades undoubtedly enter' d into the gestation of " Leaves of 


And certain actors and singers, had a good deal to do with the 
business. All through these years, off and on, I frequented the 
old Park, the Bowery, Broadway and Chatham-square theatres, 
and the Italian operas at Chambers-street, Astor- place or the 
Battery — many seasons was on the free list, writing for papers 
even as quite a youth. The old Park theatre— what names, 
reminiscences, the words bring back ! Placide, Clarke, Mrs. 
Vernon, Fisher, Clara F., Mrs. Wood, Mrs. Seguin, Ellen Tree, 
Hackett, the younger Kean, Macready, Mrs. Richardson, Rice — 
singers, tragedians, comedians. What perfect acting ! Henry 
Placide in " Napoleon's Old Guard " or " Grandfather White- 
head," — or "the Provoked Husband" of Cibber, with Fanny 
Kemble as Lady Townley — or Sheridan Knowles in his own 
"Virginius" — or inimitable Power in "Born to Good Luck." 
These, and many more, the years of youth and onward. Fanny 
Kemble — name to conjure up great mimic scenes withal — per- 
haps the greatest. I remember well her rendering of Bianca in 
"Fazio," and Marianna in "the Wife." Nothing finer did 
ever stage exhibit — the veterans of all nations said so, and my 
boyish heart and head felt it in every minute cell. The lady was 
just matured, strong, better than merely beautiful, born from the 
footlights, had had three years' practice in London and through 
the British towns, and then she came to give America that young 
maturity and roseate power in all their noon, or rather forenoon, 
flush. It was my good luck to see her nearly every night she 
play'd at the old Park — certainly in all her principal characters. 

I heard, these years, well render' d, all the Italian and other 
operas in vogue, " Sonnambula," " the Puritans," " Der Freis- 
chutz," "Huguenots," " Fille d'Regiment," "Faust," "Etoile 
du Nord," " Poliuto," and others. Verdi's " Ernani," " Rigo- 
letto," and " Trovatore," with Donnizetti's "Lucia" or " Fa- 
vorita " or "Lucrezia," and Auber's " Massaniello," or Rossini's 
" William Tell " and " Gazza Ladra," were among my special 
enjoyments. I heard Alboni every time she sang in New York 
and vicinity — also Grisi, the tenor Mario, and the baritone Ba- 
diali, the finest in the world. 


This musical passion follow' d my theatrical one. As boy or 
young man I had seen, (reading them carefully the day before- 
hand,) quite all Shakspere's acting dramas, play'd wonderfully 
well. Even yet I cannot conceive anything finer than old Booth 
in " Richard Third," or "Lear," (I don't know which was best,) 
or Iago, (or Pescara, or Sir Giles Overreach, to go outside of 
Shakspere) — or Tom Hamblin in "Macbeth" — or old Clarke, 
either as the ghost in " Hamlet," or as Prospero in " the Tem- 
pest," with Mrs. Austin as Ariel, and Peter Richings as Caliban. 
Then other dramas, and fine players in them, Forrest as Meta- 
mora or Damon or Brutus — John R. Scott as Tom Cringle or 
Rolla — or Charlotte Cushman's Lady Gay Spanker in " Lon- 
don Assurance." Then of some years later, at Castle Garden, 
Battery, I yet recall the splendid seasons of the Havana musi- 
cal troupe under Maretzek — the fine band, the cool sea- 
breezes, the unsurpass'd vocalism — Steffanone, Bosio, Truffi, Ma- 
rini in "Marino Faliero," " Don Pasquale," or " Favorita." No 
better playing or singing ever in New York. It was here too I 
afterward heard Jenny Lind. (The Battery — its past associa- 
tions — what tales those old trees and walks and sea-walls could 
tell !) 


In 1848, '49, I was occupied as editor of the " daily Eagle " 
newspaper, in Brooklyn. The latter year went off on a leisurely 
journey and working expedition (my brother Jeff with me) 
through all the middle States, and down the Ohio and Missis- 
sippi rivers. Lived awhile in New Orleans, and work'd there on 
the editorial staff of "daily Crescent " newspaper. After a time 
plodded back northward, up the Mississippi, and around to, and 
by way of the great lakes, Michigan, Huron, and Erie, to Niagara 
falls and lower Canada, finally returning through central New 
York and down the Hudson ; traveling altogether probably 
8000 miles this trip, to and fro. '51, '53, occupied in house- 
building in Brooklyn. (For a little of the first part of that time 
in printing a daily and weekly paper, "the Freeman.") '55, lost 
my dear father this year by death. Commenced putting " Leaves 
of Grass" to press for good, at the job printing office of my 
friends, the brothers Rome, in Brooklyn, after many MS. doings 
and undoings — (I had great trouble in leaving out the stock 
"poetical " touches, but succeeded at last.) I am now (185 6-' 7) 
passing through my 37th year. 

To sum up the foregoing from the outset (and, of course, far, 
far more unrecorded,) I estimate three leading sources and forma- 


tive stamps to my own character, now solidified for good or bad, 
and its subsequent literary and other outgrowth — the maternal 
nativity-stock brought hither from far-away Netherlands, for one, 
(doubtless the best) — the subterranean tenacity and central bony 
structure (obstinacy, wilfulness) which I get from my paternal 
English elements, for another — and the combination of my Long 
Island birth-spot, sea-shores, childhood's scenes, absorptions, 
with teeming Brooklyn and New York — with, I suppose, my experi- 
ences afterward in the secession outbreak, for the third. 

For, in 1862, startled by news that my brother George, an 
officer in the 51st New York volunteers, had been seriously 
wounded (first Fredericksburg battle, December 13th,) I hur- 
riedly went down to the field of war in Virginia. But I must go 
back a little. 


News of the attack on fort Sumter and the flag at Charles- 
ton harbor, S. C, was receiv'd in New York city late at night 
(13th April, 1 86 1,) and was immediately sent out in extras of the 
newspapers. I had been to the opera in Fourteenth street that 
night, and after the performance was walking down Broadway 
toward twelve o'clock, on my way to Brooklyn, when I heard in 
the distance the loud cries of the newsboys, who came presently 
tearing and yelling up the street, rushing from side to side even 
more furiously than usual. I bought an extra and cross' d to the 
Metropolitan hotel (Niblo's) where the great lamps were still 
brightly blazing, and, with a crowd of others, who gather' d im- 
promptu, read the news, which was evidently authentic. For the 
benefit of some who had no papers, one of us read the telegram 
aloud, while all listen' d silently and attentively. No remark was 
made by any of the crowd, which had increas'd to thirty or forty, 
but all stood a minute or two, I remember, before they dispers'd. 
I can almost see them there now, under the lamps at midnight 


I have said somewhere that the three Presidentiads preceding 
1 86 1 show'd how the weakness and wickedness of rulers are just 
as eligible here in America under republican, as in Europe under 
dynastic influences. But what can I say of that prompt and 
splendid wrestling with secession slavery, the arch-enemy personi- 
fied, the instant he unmistakably show'd his face? The volcanic 
upheaval of the nation, after that firing on the flag at Charleston, 
proved for certain something which had been previously in great 
doubt, and at once substantially settled the question of disunion. 
In my judgment it will remain as the grandest and most encour- 
aging spectacle yet vouchsafed in any age, old or new, *to politi- 


cal progress and democracy. It was not for what came to the 
surface merely — though that was important — but what it indi- 
cated below, which was of eternal importance. Down in the 
abysms of New World humanity there had form'd and harden' d 
a primal hard-pan of national Union will, determin'd and in the • 
majority, refusing to be tamper'd with or argued against, con- 
fronting all emergencies, and capable at any time of bursting all 
surface bonds, and breaking out like an earthquake. It is, in- 
deed, the best lesson of the century, or of America, and it is a 
mighty privilege to have been part of it. (Two great spectacles, 
immortal proofs of democracy, unequall'd in all the history of 
the past, are furnish' d by the secession war — one at the begin- 
ning, the other at its close. Those are, the general, voluntary, 
arm'd upheaval, and the peaceful and harmonious disbanding of 
the armies in the summer of 1865.) 

Even after the bombardment of Sumter, however, the gravity 
of the revolt, and the power and will of the slave States for a 
strong and continued military resistance to national authority, 
were not at all realized at the North, except by a few. Nine-tenths 
of the people of the free States look'd upon the rebellion, as 
started in South Carolina, from a feeling one-half of contempt, 
and the other half composed of anger and incredulity. It was 
not thought it would be join'd in by Virginia, North Carolina, 
or Georgia. A great and cautious national official predicted that 
it would blow over "in sixty days," and folks generally believ'd 
the prediction. I remember talking about it on a Fulton ferry- 
boat with the Brooklyn mayor, who said he only " hopeb! the 
Southern fire-eaters would commit some overt act of resistance, as 
they would then be at once so effectually squelch' d, we would 
never hear of secession again — but he was afraid they never would 
have the pluck to really do anything." I remember, too, that a 
couple of companies of the Thirteenth Brooklyn, who rendez- 
vou'd at the city armory, and started thence as thirty days' men, 
were all provided with pieces of rope, conspicuously tied to their 
musket-barrels, with which to bring back each man a prisoner from 
the audacious South, to be led in a noose, on our men's early and 
triumphant return ! 

All this sort of feeling was destin'd to be arrested and revers'd 
by a terrible shock — the battle of first Bull Run — certainly, as we 
now know it, one of the most singular fights on record. (All bat- 
tles, and their results, are far more matters of accident than is 
generally thought ; but this was throughout a casualty, a chance. 


Each side supposed it had won, till the last moment. One had, 
in point of fact, just the same right to be routed as the other. 
By a fiction, or series of fictions, the national forces at the last 
moment exploded in a panic and fled from the field.) The de- 
feated troops commenced pouring into Washington over the 
Long Bridge at daylight on Monday, 2 2d — day drizzling all 
through with rain. The Saturday and Sunday of the battle (20th, 
21st,) had been parch'd and hot to an extreme — the dust, the 
grime and smoke, in layers, sweated in, follow'd by other layers 
again sweated in, absorb'd by those excited souls — their clothes 
all saturated with the clay-powder filling the air — stirr'd up every- 
where on the dry roads and trodden fields by the regiments, 
swarming wagons, artillery, &c. — all the men with this coating 
of murk and sweat and rain, now recoiling back, pouring over 
the Long Bridge — a horrible march of twenty miles, returning to 
Washington baffled, humiliated, panic-struck. Where are the 
vaunts, and the proud boasts with which you went forth ? Where 
are your banners, and your bands of music, and your ropes to 
bring back your prisoners? Well, there isn't a band playing — 
and there isn't a flag but clings ashamed and lank to its staff. 

The sun rises, but shines not. The men appear, at first 
sparsely and shame-faced enough, then thicker, in the streets of 
Washington — appear in Pennsylvania avenue, and on the steps 
and basement entrances. They come along in disorderly mobs, 
some in squads, stragglers, companies. Occasionally, a rare regi- 
ment, in perfect order, with its officers (some gaps, dead, the 
true braves,) marching in silence, with lowering faces, stern, 
weary to sinking, all black and dirty, but every man with his 
musket, and stepping alive ; but these are the exceptions. Side- 
walks of Pennsylvania avenue, Fourteenth street, &c., crowded, 
jamm'd with citizens, darkies, clerks, everybody, lookers-on ; 
women in the windows, curious expressions from faces, as those 
swarms of dirt-cover'd return'd soldiers there (will they never 
end?) move by; but nothing said, no comments; (half our 
lookers-on secesh of the most venomous kind — they say nothing ; 
but the devil snickers in their faces.) During the forenoon 
Washington gets all over motley with these defeated soldiers — 
queer-looking objects, strange eyes and faces, drench'd (the 
steady rain drizzles on all day) and fearfully worn, hungry, hag- 
gard, blister'd in the feet. Good people (but not over-many of 
them either,) hurry up something for their grub. They put 
wash-kettles on the fire, for soup, for coffee. They set tables on 
the side-walks — wagon-loads of bread are purchas'd, swiftly cut 
in stout chunks. Here are two aged ladies, beautiful, the first 
in the city for culture and charm, they stand with store of eating 


and drink at an improvis'd table of rough plank, and give food, 
and have the store replenish' d from their house every half-hour all 
that day ; and there in the rain they stand, active, silent, white- 
hair'd, and give food, though the tears stream down their cheeks, 
almost without intermission, the whole time. Amid the deep 
excitement, crowds and motion, and desperate eagerness, it seems 
strange to see many, very many, of the soldiers sleeping — in the 
midst of all, sleeping sound. They drop down anywhere, on 
the steps of houses, up close by the basements or fences, on the 
sidewalk, aside on some vacant lot, and deeply sleep. A poor 
seventeen or eighteen year old boy lies there, on the stoop of a 
grand house ; he sleeps so calmly, so profoundly. Some clutch 
their muskets firmly even in sleep. Some in squads ; comrades, 
brothers, close together — and on them, as they lay, sulkily drips 
the rain. 

As afternoon pass'd, and evening came, the streets, the bar- 
rooms, knots everywhere, listeners, questioners, terrible yarns, 
bugaboo, mask'd batteries, our regiment all cut up, &c. — stories 
and story-tellers, windy, bragging, vain centres of street-crowds. 
Resolution, manliness, seem to have abandon' d Washington. 
The principal hotel, Willard's, is full of shoulder-straps — thick, 
crush'd, creeping with shoulder-straps. (I see them, and must 
have a word with them. There you are, shoulder-straps ! — but 
where are your companies ? where are your men ? Incompetents 1 
never tell me of chances of battle, of getting stray'd, and the 
like. I think this is your work, this retreat, after all. Sneak, 
blow, put on airs there in Willard's sumptuous parlors and bar- 
rooms, or anywhere — no explanation shall save you. Bull Run 
is your work ; had you been half or one-tenth worthy your men, 
this would never have happen'd.) 

Meantime, in Washington, among the great persons and their 
entourage, a mixture of awful consternation, uncertainty, rage, 
shame, helplessness, and stupefying disappointment. The worst 
is not only imminent, but already here. In a few hours — perhaps 
before the next meal — the secesh generals, with their victorious 
hordes, will be upon us. The dream of humanity, the vaunted 
Union we thought so strong, so impregnable — lo ! it seems al- 
ready smash' d like a china plate. One bitter, bitter hour — per- 
haps proud America will never again know such an hour. She 
must pack and fly — no time to spare. Those white palaces — the 
dome-crown' d capitol there on the hill, so stately over the trees 
— shall they be left — or destroy'd first? For it is certain that 
the talk among certain of the magnates and officers and clerks 
and officials everywhere, for twenty-four hours in and around 
Washington after Bull Run, was loud and undisguised for yield- 



ing out and out, and substituting the southern rule, and Lincoln 
promptly abdicating and departing. If the secesh officers and 
forces had immediately follow'd, and by a bold Napoleonic 
movement had enter'd Washington the first day, (or even the 
second,) they could have had things their own way, and a pow- 
erful faction north to back them. One of our returning colo- 
nels express'd in public that night, amid a swarm of officers and 
gentlemen in a crowded room, the opinion that it was useless to 
fight, that the southerners had made their title clear, and that 
the best course for the national government to pursue was to de- 
sist from any further attempt at stopping them, and admit them 
again to the lead, on the best terms they were willing to grant. 
Not a voice was rais'd against this judgment, amid that large 
crowd of officers and gentlemen. (The fact is, the hour was one 
of the three or four of those crises we had then and afterward, 
during the fluctuations of four years, when human eyes appear' d 
at least just as likely to see the last breath of the Union as to see 
it continue.) 


But the hour, the day, the night pass'd, and whatever returns, 
an hour, a day, a night like that can never again return. The 
President, recovering himself, begins that very night — sternly, 
rapidly sets about the task of reorganizing his forces, and plac- 
ing himself in positions for future and surer work. If there 
were nothing else of Abraham Lincoln for history to stamp him 
with, it is enough to send him with his wreath to the memory of 
all future time, that he endured that hour, that day, bitterer than 
gall — indeed a crucifixion day — that it did not conquer him — 
that he unflinchingly stemm'd it, and resolv'd to lift himself and 
the Union out of it. 

Then the great New York papers at once appear' d, (commenc- 
ing that evening, and following it up the next morning, and in- 
cessantly through many days afterwards,) with leaders that rang 
out over the land with the loudest, most reverberating ring of 
clearest bugles, full of encouragement, hope, inspiration, unfalter- 
ing defiance. Those magnificent editorials ! they never flagg'd 
for a fortnight. The " Herald " commenced them — I remember 
the articles well. The "Tribune" was equally cogent and in- 
spiriting — and the " Times," " Evening Post," and other prin- 
cipal papers, were not a whit behind. They came in good time, 
for they were needed. For in the humiliation of Bull Run, the 
popular feeling north, from its extreme of superciliousness, re- 
coil' d to the depth of gloom and apprehension. 

(Of all the days of the war, there are two especially I can 


never forget. Those were the day following the news, in New York 
and Brooklyn, of that first Bull Run defeat, and the day of Abra- 
ham Lincoln's death. I was home in Brooklyn on both occa- 
sions. The day of the murder we heard the news very early in 
the morning. Mother prepared breakfast — and other meals after- 
ward — as usual ; but not a mouthful was eaten all day by either 
of us. We each drank half a cup of coffee ; that was all. Little 
was said. We got every newspaper morning and evening, and 
the frequent extras of that period, and pass'd them silently to 

each other.) 


Falmouth, Va., opposite Frederickslnci'gh, December 21, 1862. — 
Begin my visits among the camp hospitals in the army of the 
Potomac. Spend a good part of the day in a large brick man- 
sion on the banks of the Rappahannock, used as a hospital since 
the battle — seems to have receiv'd only the worst cases. Out 
doors, at the foot of a tree, within ten yards of the front of the 
house, I notice a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, &c, 
a full load for a one-horse cart. Several dead bodies lie near, 
each cover' d with its brown woolen blanket. In the door-yard, 
towards the river, are fresh graves, mostly of officers, their names 
on pieces of barrel-staves or broken boards, stuck in the dirt. 
(Most of these bodies were subsequently taken up and trans- 
ported north to their friends.) The large mansion is quite 
crowded upstairs and down, everything impromptu, no system, 
all bad enough, but I have no doubt the best that can be done ; 
all the wounds pretty bad, some frightful, the men in their old 
clothes, unclean and bloody. Some of the wounded are rebel 
soldiers and officers, prisoners. One, a Mississippian, a captain, 
hit badly in leg, I talk'd with some time ; he ask'd me for 
papers, which I gave him. (I saw him three months afterward 
in Washington, with his leg amputated, doing well.) I went 
through the rooms, downstairs and up. Some of the men were 
dying. I had nothing to give at that visit, but wrote a few let- 
ters to folks home, mothers, &c. Also talk'd to three or four, 
who seem'd most susceptible to it, and needing it. 

December 23 to 31. — The results of the late battle are exhib- 
ited everywhere about here in thousands of cases, (hundreds die 
every day,) in the camp, brigade, and division hospitals. These 
are merely tents, and sometimes very poor ones, the wounded 
lying on the ground, lucky if their blankets are spread on layers 
of pine or hemlock twigs, or small leaves. No cots ; seldom even 
a mattress. It is pretty cold. The ground is frozen hard, and 



there is occasional snow. I go around from one case to another. 
I do not see that I do much good to these wounded and dying; 
but I cannot leave them. Once in awhile some youngster holds 
on to me convulsively, and I do what I can for him ; at any rate, 
stop with him and sit near him for hours, if he wishes it. 

Besides the hospitals, I also go occasionally on long tours 
through the camps, talking with the men, &c. Sometimes at 
night among the groups around the fires, in their shebang enclo- 
sures of bushes. These are curious shows, full of characters and 
groups. I soon get acquainted anywhere in camp, with officers 
or men, and am always well used. Sometimes I go down on 
picket with the regiments I know best. As to rations, the army 
here at present seems to be tolerably well supplied, and the men 
have enough, such as it is, mainly salt pork and hard tack. Most 
of the regiments lodge in the flimsy little shelter-tents. A few 
have built themselves huts of logs and mud, with fire-places. 


January, '6j. — Left camp at Falmouth, with some wounded, a 
few days since, and came here by A quia creek railroad, and so on 
government steamer up the Potomac. Many wounded were with 
us on the cars and boat. The cars were just common platform 
ones. The railroad journey of ten or twelve miles was made 
mostly before sunrise. The soldiers guarding the road came out 
from their tents or shebangs of bushes with rumpled hair and 
half-awake look. Those on duty were walking their posts, some 
on banks over us, others down far below the level of the track. 
I saw large cavalry camps off the road. At A quia creek landing 
were numbers of wounded going north. While I waited some 
three hours, I went around among them. Several wanted word sent 
home to parents, brothers, wives, &c, which I did for them, (by 
mail the next day from Washington.) On the boat I had my 
hands full. One poor fellow died going up. 

I am now remaining in and around Washington, daily visiting 
the hospitals. Am much in Patent-office, Eighth street, H street, 
Armory-square, and others. Am now able to do a little good, having 
money, (as almoner of others home,) and getting experience. 
To-day, Sunday afternoon and till nine in the evening, visited 
Campbell hospital; attended specially to one case in ward 1, 
very sick with pleurisy and typhoid fever, young man, farmer's 
son, D. F. Russell, company E, 60th New York, downhearted 
and feeble ; a long time before he would take any interest ; wrote 
a letter home to his mother, in Malone, Franklin county, N. Y., 
at his request ; gave him some fruit and one or two other gifts; 
envelop'd and directed his letter, &c. Then went thoroughly 
through ward 6, observ'd every case in the ward, without, I think, 


missing one ; gave perhaps from twenty to thirty persons, each 
one some little gift, such as oranges, apples, sweet crackers, figs, 

Thursday, Jan. 21. — Devoted the main part of the day to 
Armory-square hospital ; went pretty thoroughly through wards 
F, G, H, and I ; some fifty cases in each ward. In ward F sup- 
plied the men throughout with writing paper and stamp'd en- 
velope each ; distributed in small portions, to proper subjects, a 
large jar of first-rate preserv'd berries, which had been donated 
to me by a lady — her own cooking. Found* several cases I 
thought good subjects for small sums of money, which I fur- 
nish'd. (The wounded men often come up broke, and it helps 
their spirits to have even the small sum I give them.) My paper 
and envelopes all gone, but distributed a good lot of amusing 
reading matter; also, as I thought judicious, tobacco, oranges, 
apples, &c. Interesting cases in ward I; Charles Miller, bed 
19, company D, 53d Pennsylvania, is only sixteen years of age, 
very bright, courageous boy, left leg amputated below the knee ; 
next bed to him, another young lad very sick ; gave each appro- 
priate gifts. In the bed above, also, amputation of the left leg ; 
gave him a little jar of raspberries; bed 1, this ward, gave a 
small sum ; also to a soldier on crutches, sitting on his bed near.... 
(I am more and more surprised at the very great proportion of 
youngsters from fifteen to twenty-one in the army. I afterwards 
found a still greater proportion among the southerners.) 

Evening, same day, went to see D. F. R., before alluded to; 
found him remarkably changed for the better ; up and dress'd — 
quite a triumph ; he afterwards got well, and went back to his 
regiment. Distributed in the wards a quantity of note-paper, 
and forty or fifty stamp'd envelopes, of which I had recruited 
my stock, and the men were much in need. 


Here is a case of a soldier I found among the crowded cots in 
the Patent-office. He likes to have some one to talk to, and we 
will listen to him. He got badly hit in his leg and side at Fred- 
ericksburgh that eventful Saturday, 13th of December. He lay 
the succeeding two days and nights helpless on the field, between 
the city and those grim terraces of batteries ; his company and 
regiment had been compell'd to leave him to his fate. To make 
matters worse, it happen'd he lay with his head slightly down 
hill, and could not help himself. At the end of some fifty hours 
he was brought off, with other wounded, under a flag of truce. 
I ask him how the rebels treated him as he lay during those two 
days and nights within reach of them — whether they came to 



him — whether they abused him ? He answers that several of the 
rebels, soldiers and others, came to him at one time and another. 
A couple of them, who were together, spoke roughly and sarcas- 
tically, but nothing worse. One middle-aged man, however, 
who seem'd to be moving around the field, among the dead and 
wounded, for benevolent purposes, came to him in a way he 
will never forget; treated our soldier kindly, bound up his 
wounds, cheer'd him, gave him a couple of biscuits and a drink 
of whiskey and water; asked him if he could eat some beef. 
This good secesh, however, did not change our soldier's position, 
for it might have caused the blood to burst from the wounds, 
clotted and stagnated. Our soldier is from Pennsylvania ; has 
had a pretty severe time ; the wounds proved to be bad ones. 
But he retains a good heart, and is at present on the gain. (It 
is not uncommon for the men to remain on the field this way, 
one, two, or even four or five days.) 


Letter Writing. — When eligible, I encourage the men to write, 
and myself, when called upon, write all sorts of letters for them, 
(including love letters, very tender ones.) Almost as I reel off 
these memoranda, I write for a new patient to his wife. M. de F., 
of the 17th Connecticut, company H, has just come up (Febru- 
ary 17th) from Windmill point, and is received in ward H, 
Armory-square. He is an intelligent looking man, has a foreign 
accent, black-eyed and hair'd, a Hebraic appearance. 'Wants 
a telegraphic message sent to his wife, New Canaan, Conn. I 
agree to send the message — but to make things sure I also sit 
down and write the wife a letter, and despatch it to the post- 
office immediately, as he fears she will come on, and he does not 
wish her to, as he will surely get well. 

Saturday ', January joth. — Afternoon, visited Campbell hospital. 
Scene of cleaning up the ward, and giving the men all clean 
clothes — through the ward (6) the patients dressing or being 
dress'd — the naked upper half of the bodies — the good-humor 
and fun — the shirts, drawers, sheets of beds, &c, and the general 
fixing up for Sunday. Gave J. L. 50 cents. 

Wednesday, February 4th. — Visited Armory-square hospital, 
went pretty thoroughly through wards E and D. Supplied paper 
and envelopes to all who wish'd — as usual, found plenty of men 
who needed those articles. Wrote letters. Saw and talk'd with 
two or three members of the Brooklyn 14th regt. A poor fel- 
low in ward D, with a fearful wound in a fearful condition, was 
having some loose splinters of bone taken from the neighborhood 
of the wound. The operation was long, and one of great pain — 


yet, after it was well commenced, the soldier bore it in silence. 
He sat up, propp'd — was much wasted — had lain a long time 
quiet in one position (not for days only but weeks,) a bloodless, 
brown-skinn'd face, with eyes full of determination — belong'd to 
a New York regiment. There was an unusual cluster of surgeons, 
medical cadets, nurses, &c, around his bed — I thought the whole 
thing was done with tenderness, and done well. In one case, the 
wife sat by the side of her husband, his sickness typhoid fever, 
pretty bad. In another, by the side of her son, a mother — she 
told me she had seven children, and this was the youngest. (A 
fine, kind, healthy, gentle mother, good-looking, not very old, 
with a cap on her head, and dress' d like home — what a charm it 
gave to the whole ward.) I liked the woman nurse in ward E — 
I noticed how she sat a long time by a poor fellow who just had, 
that morning, in addition to his other sickness, bad hemorrhage 
— she gently assisted him, reliev'd him of the blood, holding a 
cloth to his mouth, as he coughed it up — he was so weak he could 
only just turn his head over on the pillow. 

One young New York man, with a bright, handsome face, had 
been lying several months from a most disagreeable wound, re- 
ceiv'd at Bull Run. A bullet had shot him right through the 
bladder, hitting him front, low in the belly, and coming out 
back. He had suffer'd much — the water came out of the wound, 
by slow but steady quantities, for many weeks — so that he lay 
almost constantly in a sort of puddle — and there were other dis- 
agreeable circumstances. He was of good heart, however. At 
present comparatively comfortable, had a bad throat, was de- 
lighted with a stick of horehound candy I gave him, with one or 
two other trifles. 


February 23. — I must not let the great hospital at the Patent- 
office pass away without some mention. A few weeks ago the 
vast area of the second story of that noblest of Washington 
buildings was crowded close with rows of sick, badly wounded 
and dying soldiers. They were placed in three very large apart- 
ments. I went there many times. It was a strange, solemn, and, 
with all its features of suffering and death, a sort of fascinating 
sight. I go sometimes at night to soothe and relieve par- 
ticular cases. Two of the immense apartments are fill'd with 
high and ponderous glass cases, crowded with models in minia- 
ture of every kind of utensil, machine or invention, it ever en- 
ter'd into the mind of man to conceive ; and with curiosities 
and foreign presents. Between these cases are lateral openings, 
perhaps eight feet wide and quite deep, and in these were placed 
the sick, besides a great long double row of them up and down 



through the middle of the hall. Many of them were very bad 
cases, wounds and amputations. Then there was a gallery run- 
ning above the hall in which there were beds also. It was, in- 
deed, a curious scene, especially at night when lit up. The glass 
cases, the beds, the forms lying there, the gallery above, and the 
marble pavement under foot — the suffering, and the fortitude to 
bear it in various degrees — occasionally, from some, the groan 
that could not be repress'd — sometimes a poor fellow dying, with 
emaciated face and glassy eye, the nurse by his side, the doctor 
also there, but no friend, no relative — such were the sights but 
lately in the Patent- office. (The wourrded have since been re- 
moved from there, and it is now vacant again.) 

February 24th. — A spell of fine soft weather. I wander about 
a good deal, sometimes at night under the moon. To-night took 
a long look at the President's house. The white portico — the 
palace-like, tall, round columns, spotless as snow — the walls also 
— the tender and soft moonlight, flooding the pale marble, and 
making peculiar faint languishing shades, not shadows — every- 
where a soft transparent hazy, thin, blue moon-lace, hanging in 
the air — the brilliant and extra-plentiful clusters of gas, on and 
around the facade, columns, portico, &c. — everything so white, 
so marbly pure and dazzling, yet soft — the White House of future 
poems, and of dreams and dramas, there in the soft and copious 
moon — the gorgeous front, in the trees, under the lustrous flood- 
ing moon, full of reahty, full of illusion — the forms of the trees, 
leafless, silent, in trunk and myriad-angles of branches, under 
the stars and sky — the White House of the land, and of beauty 
and night — sentries at the gates, and by the portico, silent, pac- 
ing there in blue overcoats — stopping you not at all, but eyeing 
you with sharp eyes, whichever way you move. 

Let me specialize a visit I made to the collection of barrack- 
like one-story edifices, Campbell hospital, out on the flats, at the 
end of the then horse railway route, on Seventh street. There 
is a long building appropriated to each ward. Let us go into 
ward 6. It contains to-day, I should judge, eighty or a hundred 
patients, half sick, half wounded. The edifice is nothing but 
boards, well whitewash' d inside, and the usual slender-framed 
iron bedsteads, narrow and plain. You walk down the central 
passage, with a row on either side, their feet towards you, and 
their heads to the wall. There are fires in large stoves, and the 
prevailing white of the walls is reliev'd by some ornaments, stars, 
circles, &c, made of evergreens. The view of the whole edifice 


and occupants can be taken at once, for there is no partition. 
You may hear groans or other sounds of unendurable suffering 
from two or three of the cots, but in the main there is quiets— 
almost a painful absence of demonstration ; but the pallid face, 
the dull'd eye, and the moisture on the lip, are demonstration 
enough. Most of these sick or hurt are evidently young fellows 
from the country, farmers' sons, and such like. Look at the fine 
large frames, the bright and broad countenances, and the many 
yet lingering proofs of strong constitution and physique. Look 
at the patient and mute manner of our American wounded as 
they lie in such a sad collection ; representatives from all New 
England, and from New York, and New Jersey, and Pennsyl- 
vania — indeed from all the States and all the cities — largely 
from the west. Most of them are entirely without friends- or ac- 
quaintances here — no familiar face, and hardly a word of judi- 
cious sympathy or cheer, through their sometimes long and te- 
dious sickness, or the pangs of aggravated wounds. 

This young man in bed 25 is H. D. B., of the 27th Connecti- 
cut, company B. His folks live at Northford, near New Haven. 
Though not more than twenty-one, or thereabouts, he has knock'd 
much around the world, on sea and land, and has seen some fight- 
ing on both. When I first saw him he was very sick, with no 
appetite. He declined offers of money — said he did not need 
anything. As I was quite anxious to do something, he confess'd 
that he had a hankering for a good home-made rice pudding — 
thought he could relish it better than anything. At this time his 
stomach was very weak. (The doctor, whom I consulted, said 
nourishment would do him more good than anything ; but things 
in the hospital, though better than usual, revolted him.) I soon 
procured B. his rice-pudding. A Washington lady, (Mrs. O'C), 
hearing his wish, made the pudding herself, and I took it up to 
him the next day. He subsequently told me he lived upon it for 
three or four days. This B. is a good sample of the American 
eastern young man — the typical Yankee. I took a fancy to him, 
and gave him a nice pipe, for a keepsake. He receiv'd after- 
wards a box of things from home, and nothing would do but I 
must take dinner with him, which I did, and a very good one it 


Here in this same ward are two young men from Brooklyn, 
members of the 51st New York. I had known both the two as 
young lads at home, so they seem near to me. One of them, J. 
L., lies there with an amputated arm, the stump healing pretty 


well. (I saw him lying on the ground at Fredericksburgh last 
December, all bloody, just after the arm was taken off. He was 
very phlegmatic about it, munching away at a cracker in the re- 
maining hand— made no fuss.) He will recover, and thinks and 
talks yet of meeting the Johnny Rebs. 


The grand soldiers are not comprised in those of one side, any 
more than the other. Here is a sample of an unknown south- 
erner, a lad of seventeen. At the War department, a few days 
ago, I witness'd a presentation of captured flags to the Secretary. 
Among others a soldier named Gant, of the 104th Ohio volun- 
teers, presented a rebel battle-flag, which one of the officers stated 
to me was borne to the mouth of our cannon and planted there 
by a boy but seventeen years of age, who actually endeavor'd to 
stop the muzzle of the gun with fence-rails. He was kill'd in the 
effort, and the flag-staff was sever' d by a shot from one of our 


May, '6j— As I write this, the wounded have begun to arrive 
from Hooker's command from bloody Chancellorsville. I was 
down among the first arrivals. The men in charge told me the 
bad cases were yet to come. If that is so I pity them, for these 
are bad enough. You ought to see the scene of the wounded ar- 
riving at the landing here at the foot of Sixth street, at night. 
Two boat loads came about half-past seven last night. A little 
after eight it rain'd a long and violent shower. The pale, help- 
less soldiers had been debark'd, and lay around on the wharf and 
neighborhood anywhere. The rain was, probably, grateful to 
them ; at any rate they were exposed to it. The few torches light 
up the spectacle. All around— on the wharf, on the ground, out 
on side places— the men are lying on blankets, old quilts, &c, 
with bloody rags bound round heads, arms, and legs. The at- 
tendants are few, and at night few outsiders also— only a few 
hard-work' d transportation men and drivers. (The wounded are 
getting to be common, and people grow callous.) The men, 
whatever their condition, lie there, and patiently wait till their 
turn comes to be taken up. Near by, the ambulances are now 
arriving in clusters, and one after another is call'd to back up 
and take its load. Extreme cases are sent off on stretchers. The 
men generally make little or no ado, whatever their sufferings. 
A few groans that cannot be suppress'd, and occasionally a scream 
of pam as they lift a man into the ambulance. To-day, as I 
write, hundreds more are expected, and to-morrow and the next 


day more, and so on for many days. Quite often they arrive at 
the rate of ioooaday. , 


May 12. — There was part of the late battle at Chancellors- 
ville, (second Fredericksburgh,) a little over a week ago, Satur- 
day, Saturday night and Sunday, under Gen. Joe Hooker, I 
would like to give just a glimpse of — (a moment's look in a ter- 
rible storm at sea — of which a few suggestions are enough, and 
full details impossible.) The fighting had been very hot during 
the day, and after an intermission the latter part, was resumed at 
night, and kept up with furious energy till 3 o'clock in the morn- 
ing. That afternoon (Saturday) an attack sudden and strong by 
Stonewall Jackson had gain'd a great advantage to the southern 
army, and broken our lines, entering us like a wedge, and leaving 
things in that position at dark. But Hooker at 11 at night made 
a desperate push, drove the secesh forces back, restored his origi- 
nal lines, and resumed his plans. This night scrimmage was very 
exciting, and afforded countless strange and fearful pictures. The 
fighting had been general both at Chancellorsville and northeast 
at Fredericksburgh. (We hear of some poor fighting, episodes, 
skedaddling on our part. I think not of it. I think of the fierce 
bravery, the general rule.) One corps, the 6th, Sedgewick's, 
fights four dashing and bloody battles in thirty-six hours, retreat- 
ing in great jeopardy, losing largely but maintaining itself, fight- 
ing with the sternest desperation under all circumstances, getting 
over the Rappahannock only by the skin of its teeth, yet getting 
over. It lost many, many brave men, yet it took vengeance, 
ample vengeance. 

But it was the tug of Saturday evening, and through the night 
and Sunday morning, I wanted to make a special note of. It 
was largely in the woods, and quite a general engagement. The 
night was very pleasant, at times the moon shining out full and 
clear, all Nature so calm in itself, the early summer grass so rich, 
and foliage of the trees — yet there the battle raging, and many 
good fellows lying helpless, with new accessions to them, and 
every minute amid the rattle of muskets and crash of cannon, 
(for there was an artillery contest too,) the red life-blood oozing 
out from heads or trunks or limbs upon that green and dew-cool 
grass. Patches of the woods take fire, and several of the wounded, 
unable to move, are consumed — quite large spaces are swept over, 
burning the dead also — some of the men have their hair and 
beards singed — some, burns on their faces and hands — others 
holes burnt in their clothing. The flashes of fire from the can- 
non, the quick flaring flames and smoke, and the immense roar^ 



the musketry so general, the light nearly bright enough for each 
side to see the other — the crashing, tramping of men — the 
yelling^ — close quarters — we hear the secesh yells — our men cheer 
loudly back, especially if Hooker is in sight — hand to hand con- 
flicts, each side stands up to it, brave, determin'd as demons, they 
often charge upon us — a thousand deeds are done worth to write 
newer greater poems on — and still the woods on fire — still many 
are not only scorch'd — too many, unable to move, are burn'd to 

Then the camps of the wounded — O heavens, what scene is 
this ? — is this indeed humanity — these butchers' shambles ? There 
are several of them. There they lie, in the largest, in an open 
space in the woods, from 200 to 300 poor fellows — the groans 
and screams — the odor of blood, mixed with the fresh scent of 
the night, the grass, the trees — that slaughter-house ! O well is 
it their mothers, their sisters cannot see them — cannot conceive, 
and never conceiv'd, these things. One man is shot by a shell, 
both in the arm and leg — both are amputated — there lie the re- 
jected members. Some have their legs blown off — some bullets 
through the breast — some indescribably horrid wounds in the 
face or head, all mutilated, sickening, torn, gouged out — some 
in the abdomen — some mere boys — many rebels, badly hurt — 
they take their regular turns with the rest, just the same as any — 
the surgeons use them just the same. Such is the camp of the 
wounded — such a fragment, a reflection afar off of the bloody 
scene — while over all the clear, large moon comes out at times 
softly, quietly shining. Amid the woods, that scene of flitting 
souls — amid the crack and crash and yelling sounds — the impal- 
pable perfume of the'woods — and yet the pungent, stifling smoke — 
the radiance of the moon, looking from heaven at intervals so 
placid — the sky so heavenly — the clear-obscure up there, those 
buoyant upper oceans — a few large placid stars beyond, coming 
silently and languidly out, and then disappearing — the melan- 
choly, draperied night above, around. And there, upon the 
roads, the fields, and in those woods, that contest, never one 
more desperate in any age or land — both parties now in force — 
masses — no fancy battle, no semi-play, but fierce and savage de- 
mons fighting there — courage and scorn of death the rule, excep- 
tions almost none. 

What history, I say, can ever give — for who can know — the 
mad, determin'd tussle of the armies, in all their separate large 
and little squads — as this — each steep'd from crown to toe in 
desperate, mortal purports? Who know the conflict, hand-to- 
hand — the many conflicts in the dark, those shadowy-tangled, 
flashing-moonbeam'd woods — the writhing groups and squads — 


the cries, the din, the cracking guns and pistols — the distant 
cannon — the cheers and calls and threats and awful music of 
the oaths — the indescribable mix — the officers' orders, persua- 
sions, encouragements — the devils fully rous'd in human hearts — 
the strong shout, Charge, men, charge — the flash of the naked 
sword, and rolling flame and smoke? And still the broken, clear 
and clouded heaven — and still again the moonlight pouring sil- 
very soft its radiant patches over all. Who paint the scene, the 
sudden partial panic of the afternoon, at dusk? Who paint the 
irrepressible advance of the second division of the Third corps, 
under Hooker himself, suddenly order'd up — those rapid-filing 
phantoms through the woods? Who show what moves there in 
the shadows, fluid and firm — to save, (and it did save,) the army's 
name, perhaps the nation ? as there the veterans hold the field. 
(Brave Berry falls not yet — but death has mark'd him — soon 
he falls.) 


Of scenes like these, I say, who writes — whoe'er can write the 
story ? Of many a score — aye, thousands, north and south, of 
unwrit heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first- 
class desperations — who tells? No history ever — no poem sings, 
no music sounds, those bravest men of all — those deeds. No 
formal general's report, nor book in the library, nor column in 
the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west. 
Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest sol- 
diers. Our manliest — our boys — our hardy darlings ; no picture 
gives them. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, 
for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or 
ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot — there sheltering a little 
while, soaking roots, grass and soil, with red blood — the battle 
advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by — and there, 
haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed,) 
the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him — the eyes glaze 
in death — none recks — perhaps the burial-squads, in truce, a week 
afterwards, search not the secluded spot — and there, at last, the 
Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and un- 


June 18th. — In one of the hospitals I find Thomas Haley, com- 
pany M, 4th New York cavalry — a regular Irish boy, a fine speci- 
men of youthful physical manliness — shot through the lungs — 
inevitably dying — came over to this country from Ireland to en- 
list — has not a single friend or acquaintance here — is sleeping 
soundly at this moment, (but it is the sleep of death) — has a 



bullet-hole straight through the lung. I saw Tom when first 
brought here, three days since, and didn't suppose he could live 
twelve hours — (yet he looks well enough in the face to a casual 
observer.) He lies there with his frame exposed above the waist, 
all naked, for coolness, a fine built man, the tan not yet bleach'd 
from his cheeks and neck. It is useless to talk to him, as with 
his sad hurt, and the stimulants they give him, and the utter 
strangeness of every object, face, furniture, &c, the poor fellow, 
even when awake, is like some frighten'd, shy animal. Much of 
the time he sleeps, or half sleeps. (Sometimes I thought he knew 
more than he show'd.) I often come and sit by him in perfect 
silence ; he will breathe for ten minutes as softly and evenly as 
a young babe asleep. Poor youth, so handsome, athletic, with 
profuse beautiful shining hair. One time as I sat looking at 
him while he lay asleep, he suddenly, without the least start, 
awaken'd, open'd his eyes, gave me a long steady look, turning 
his face very slightly to gaze easier — one long, clear, silent look 
— a slight sigh — then turn'd back and went into his doze again. 
Little he knew, poor death-stricken boy, the heart of the stranger 
that hover'd near. 

W. H. £., Co. F., 2d N.J. — His disease is pneumonia. He 
lay sick at the wretched hospital below Aquia creek, for seven or 
eight days before brought here. He was detail' d from his regi- 
ment to go there and help as nurse, but was soon taken down 
himself. Is an elderly, sallow-faced, rather gaunt, gray-hair' d 
man, a widower, with children. He express' d a great desire for 
good, strong green tea. An excellent lady, Mrs. W., of Wash- 
ington, soon sent him a package ; also a small sum of money. 
The doctor said give him the tea at pleasure ; it lay on the table 
by his side, and he used it every day. He slept a great deal ; 
could not talk much, as he grew deaf. Occupied bed 15, ward I, 
Armory. (The same lady above, Mrs. W., sent the men a large 
package of tobacco.) 

J. G. lies in bed 52, ward I; is of company B, 7th Pennsyl- 
vania. I gave him a small sum of money, some tobacco, and en- 
velopes. To a man adjoining also gave twenty-five cents; he 
flush 'd in the face when I offer' d it — refused at first, but as I 
found he had not a cent, and was very fond of having the daily 
papers to read, I prest it on him. He was evidently very grate- 
ful, but said little. 

J. T. L., of company F v 9th New Hampshire, lies in bed 37, 
ward I. Is very fond of tobacco. I furnish him some ; also with 
a little money. Has gangrene of the feet \ a pretty bad case ; 
will surely have to lose three toes. Is a regular specimen of an 
old-fashion'd, rude, hearty. New England countryman, impress- 



ing me with his likeness to that celebrated singed cat, who was 
better than she look'd. 

Bed 3, ward E, Armory, has a great hankering for pickles, 
something pungent. After consulting the doctor, I gave him a 
small bottle of horse-radish ; also some apples ; also a book. 
Some of the nurses are excellent. The woman-nurse in this 
ward I like very much. (Mrs. Wright — a year afterwards I found 
her in Mansion house hospital, Alexandria — she is a perfect 

In one bed a young man, Marcus Small, company K, 7th 
Maine — sick with dysentery and typhoid fever — pretty critical 
case — I talk with him often — he thinks he will die — looks like it 
indeed. I write a letter for him home to East Livernvore, Maine 
— I let him talk to me a little, but not much, advise him to keep 
very quiet — do most of the talking myself — stay quite a while 
with him, as he holds on to my hand — talk to him in a cheering, 
but slow, low and measured manner — talk about his furlough, 
and going home as soon as he is able to travel. 

Thomas Lindly, 1st Pennsylvania cavalry, shot very badly 
through the foot — poor young man, he suffers horribly, has to be 
constantly dosed with morphine, his face ashy and glazed, bright 
young eyes — I give him a large handsome apple, lay it in sight, 
tell him to have it roasted in the morning, as he generally feels 
easier then, and can eat a little breakfast. I write two letters 
for him. 

Opposite, an old Quaker lady is sitting by the side of her son, 
Amer Moore, 2d U. S. artillery — shot in the head two weeks since, 
very low, quite rational — from hips down paralyzed — he will 
surely die. I speak a very few words to him every day and even- 
ing — he answers pleasantly — wants nothing — (he told me soon 
after he came about his home affairs, his mother had been an in- 
valid, and he fear'd to let her know his condition.) He died 
soon after she came 


In my visits to the hospitals I found it was in the simple matter 
of personal presence, and emanating ordinary cheer and mag- 
netism, that I succeeded and help'd more than by medical 
nursing, or delicacies, or gifts of money, or anything else. 
During the war I possess'd the perfection of physical health. 
My habit, when practicable, was to prepare for starting out on 
one of those daily or nightly tours of from a couple to four or 
five hours, by fortifying myself with previous rest, the bath, 
clean clothes, a good meal, and as cheerful an appearance as 



June 25, Sundown. — As I sit writing this paragraph I see a train 
of about thirty huge four-horse wagons, used as ambulances, fill'd 
with wounded, passing up Fourteenth street, on their way, prob- 
ably, to Columbian, Carver, and mount Pleasant hospitals. This 
is the way the men come in now, seldom in small numbers, but 
almost always in these long, sad processions. Through the past 
winter, while our army lay opposite Fredericksburgh, the like 
strings of ambulances were of frequent occurrence along Seventh 
street, passing slowly up from the steamboat wharf, with loads 
from Aquia creek. 


The soldiers are nearly all young men, and far more American 
than is generally supposed — I should say nine-tenths are native- 
born. Among the arrivals from Chancellorsville I find a large 
proportion of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois men. As usual, there 
are all sorts of wounds. Some of the men fearfully burnt from 
the explosions of artillery caissons. One ward has a long row 
of officers, some with ugly hurts. Yesterday was perhaps worse 
than usual. Amputations are going on — the attendants are dress- 
ing wounds. As you pass by, you must be on your guard where 
you look. I saw the other day a gentleman, a visitor apparently 
from curiosity, in one of the wards, stop and turn a moment to 
look at an awful wound they were probing. He turn'd pale, and 
in a moment more he had fainted away and fallen on the floor. 


June 29. — Just before sundown this evening a very large cav- 
alry force went by — a fine sight. The men evidently had seen 
service. First came a mounted band of sixteen bugles, drums 
and cymbals, playing wild martial tunes — made my heart jump. 
Then the principal officers, then company after company, with 
their officers at their heads, making of course the main part of 
the cavalcade ; then a long train of men with led horses, lots of 
mounted negroes with special horses — and a long string of bag- 
gage-wagons, each drawn by four horses — and then a motley rear 
guard. It was a pronouncedly warlike and gay show ; the sabres 
clank' d, the men look'd young and healthy and strong ; the elec- 
tric tramping of so many horses on the hard road, and the gallant 
bearing, fine seat, and bright faced appearance of a thousand and 
more handsome young American men, were so good to see. An 
hour later another troop went by, smaller in numbers, perhaps 
three hundred men. They too look'd like serviceable men, cam- 
paigners used to field and fight. 

July 3. — This forenoon, for more than an hour, again long 


strings of cavalry, several regiments, very fine men and horses, 
four or five abreast. I saw them in Fourteenth street, coming in 
town from north. Several hundred extra horses, some of the 
mares with colts, trotting along. (Appear'd to be a number of 
prisoners too.) How inspiriting always the cavalry regiments. 
Our men are generally well mounted, feel good, are young, gay 
on the saddle, their blankets in a roll behind them, their sabres 
clanking at their sides. This noise and movement and the tramp 
of many horses' hoofs has a curious effect upon one. The bugles 
play — presently you hear them afar off, deaden'd, mix'd with 
other noises. Then just as they had all pass'd, a string of ambu- 
lances commenc'd from the other way, moving up Fourteenth 
street north, slowly wending along, bearing a large lot of wounded 

to the hospitals. 


July 4th. — The weather to-day, upon the whole, is very fine, 
warm, but from a smart rain last night, fresh enough, and no dust, 
which is a great relief for this city. I saw the parade about noon, 
Pennsylvania avenue, from Fifteenth street down toward the capi- 
tol. There were three regiments of infantry, (I suppose the ones 
doing patrol duty here,) two or three societies of Odd Fellows, 
a lot of children in barouches, and a squad of policemen. (A 
useless imposition upon the soldiers — they have work enough on 
their backs without piling the like of this.) As I went down the 
Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin board of a 
newspaper office, announcing " Glorious Victory for the Union 
Army!" Meade had fought Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 
yesterday and day before, and repuls'd him most signally, taken 
3,000 prisoners, &c. (I afterwards saw Meade's despatch, very 
modest, and a sort of order of the day from the President him- 
self, quite religious, giving thanks to the Supreme, and calling 
on the people to do the same.) I walk'd on to Armory hospi- 
tal — took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry 
syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of 
the wards, announc'd to the soldiers the news from Meade, and 
gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite 
refreshing — prepar'd it all myself, and serv'd it around. Mean- 
while the Washington bells are ringing their sundown peals for 
Fourth of July, and the usual fusilades of boys' pistols, crackers, 
and guns. 


I am writing this, nearly sundown, watching a cavalry com- 
pany (acting Signal service,) just come in through a shower, 
making their night's camp ready on some broad, vacant ground, 
a sort of hill, in full view opposite my window. There are the 



men in their yellow-striped jackets. All are dismounted ; the 
freed horses stand with drooping heads and wet sides ; they are 
to be led off presently in groups, to water. The little wall-tents 
and shelter tents spring up quickly. I see the fires already blazing, 
and pots and kettles over them. Some among the men are driving 
in tent-poles, wielding their axes with strong, slow blows. I see 
great huddles of horses, bundles of hay, groups of men (some 
with unbuckled sabres yet on their sides,) a few officers, piles of 
wood, the flames of the fires, saddles, harness, &c. The smoke 
streams upward, additional men arrive and dismount — some drive 
in stakes, and tie their horses to them ; some go with buckets for 
water, some are chopping wood, and so on. 

July 6th. — A steady rain, dark and thick and warm. A train 
of six-mule wagons has just pass'd bearing pontoons, great square- 
end flat-boats, and the heavy planking for overlaying them. We 
hear that the Potomac above here is flooded, and are wondering 
whether Lee will be able to get back across again, or whether 
Meade will indeed break him to pieces. The cavalry camp on 
the hill is a ceaseless field of observation for me. This forenoon 
there stand the horses, tether'd together, dripping, steaming, 
chewing their hay. The men emerge from their tents, dripping 
also. The fires are half quench'd. 

July 10th. — Still the camp opposite — perhaps fifty or sixty tents. 
Some of the men are cleaning their sabres (pleasant to-day,) some 
brushing boots, some laying off, reading, writing — some cooking, 
some sleeping. On long temporary cross-sticks back of the tents 
are cavalry accoutrements — blankets and overcoats are hung out 
to air — there are the squads of horses tether'd, feeding, continu- 
ally stamping and whisking their tails to keep off flies. I sit long 
in my third story window and look at the scene — a hundred little 
things going on — peculiar objects connected with the camp that 
could not be described, any one of them justly, without much 
minute drawing and coloring in words. 


This afternoon, July 2 2d, I have spent along time with Oscar 
F. Wilber, company G, 154th New York, low with chronic diar- 
rhoea, and a bad wound also. He asked me to read him a chap- 
ter in the New Testament. I complied, and ask'd him what I 
should read. He said, " Make your own choice." I open'd at 
the close of one of the first books of the evangelists, and read 
the chapters describing the latter hours of Christ, and the scenes 
at the crucifixion. The poor, wasted young man ask'd me to 
read the following chapter also, how Christ rose again. I read 
very slowly, for Oscar was feeble. It pleased him very much, yet 



the tears were in his eyes. He ask'd me if I enjoy'd religion. 
I said, " Perhaps not, my dear, in the way you mean, and yet, 
may-be, it is the same thing." He said, "It is my chief reli- 
ance." He talk'd of death, and said he did not fear it. I said, 
" Why, Oscar, don't you think you will get well?" He said, " I 
may, but it is not probable." He spoke calmly of his condition. 
The wound was very bad, it discharg'd much. Then the diar- 
rhoea had prostrated him, and I felt that he was even then the 
same as dying. He behaved very manly and affectionate. The 
kiss I gave him as I was about leaving he return' d fourfold. He 
gave me his mother's address, Mrs. Sally D. Wilber, Alleghany 
post-office, Cattaraugus county, N. Y. I had several such in- 
terviews with him. He died a few days after the one just de- 


August 8th. — To-night, as I was trying to keep cool, sitting by 
a wounded soldier in Armory-square, I was attracted by some 
pleasant singing in an adjoining ward. As my soldier was asleep, 
I left him, and entering the ward where the music was, I walk'd 
half-way down and took a seat by the cot of a young Brooklyn 
friend, S. R., badly wounded in the hand at Chancellorsville, and 
who has suffer'd much, but at that moment in the evening was 
wide awake and comparatively easy. He had turn'd over on his 
left side to get a better view of the singers, but the mosquito-cur- 
tains of the adjoining cots obstructed the sight. I stept round 
and loop'd them all up, so that he had a clear show, and then sat 
down again by him, and look'd and listen'd. The principal 
singer was a young lady-nurse of one of the wards, accompany- 
ing on a melodeon, and join'd by the lady-nurses of other wards. 
They sat there, making a charming group, with their handsome, 
healthy faces, and standing up a little behind them were some ten 
or fifteen of the convalescent soldiers, young men, nurses, &c, 
with books in their hands, singing. Of course it was not such 
a performance as the great soloists at the New York opera house 
take a hand in, yet I am not sure but I receiv'd as much pleasure 
under the circumstances, sitting there, as I have had from the 
best Italian compositions, express' d by world-famous performers. 
The men lying up and down the hospital, in their cots, (some 
badly wounded — some never to rise thence,) the cots themselves, 
with their drapery of white curtains, and the shadows down the 
lower and upper parts of the ward ; then the silence of the men, 
and the attitudes they took — the whole was a sight to look around 
upon again and again. And there sweetly rose those voices up 
to the high, whitewash'd wooden roof, and pleasantly the roof 
sent it all back again. They sang very well, mostly quaint old 



songs and declamatory hymns, to fitting tunes. Here, for in- 
stance : 

My days are swiftly gliding by, and I a pilgrim stranger, 
Would not detain them as they fly, those hours of toil and danger ; 
For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over, 
And just before, the shining shore we may almost discover. 

We'll gird our loins my brethren dear, our distant home discerning, 
Our absent Lord has left us word, let every lamp be burning, 
For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over, 
And just before, the shining shore we may almost discover. 

August 12th. — I see the President almost every day, as I hap- 
pen to live where he passes to or from his lodgings out of town. 
He never sleeps at the White House during the hot season, but 
has quarters at a healthy location some three miles north of the 
city, the Soldiers' home, a United States military establishment. 
I saw him this morning about 8)4 coming in to business, riding 
on Vermont avenue, near L street. He always has a company of 
twenty-five or thirty cavalry, with sabres drawn and held upright 
over their shoulders. They say this guard was against his personal 
wish, but he let his counselors have their way. The party makes no 
great show in uniform or horses. Mr. Lincoln on the saddle gen- 
erally rides a good-sized, easy-going gray horse, is dress'd in plain 
black, somewhat rusty and dusty, wears a black stiff hat, and 
looks about as ordinary in attire, &c, as the commonest man. A 
lieutenant, with yellow straps, rides at his left, and following be- 
hind, two by two, come the cavalry men, in their yellow-striped 
jackets. They are generally going at a slow trot, as that is the 
pace set them by the one they wait upon. The sabres and ac- 
coutrements clank, and the entirely unornamental cortege as it 
trots towards Lafayette square arouses no sensation, only some 
curious stranger stops and gazes. I see very plainly Abraham 
Lincoln's dark brown face, with the deep-cut lines, the eyes, al- 
ways to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression. We have 
got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones. Some- 
times the President goes and comes in an open barouche. The 
cavalry always accompany him, with drawn sabres. Often I no- 
tice as he goes out evenings — and sometimes in the morning, 
when he returns early — he turns off and halts at the large and 
handsome residence of the Secretary of War, on K street, and 
holds conference there. If in his barouche, I can see from my 
window he does not alight, but sits in his vehicle, and Mr. Stan- 
ton comes out to attend him. Sometimes one of his sons, a boy 
of ten or twelve, accompanies him, riding at his right on a pony. 
Earlier in the summer I occasionally saw the President and his 



wife, toward the latter part of the afternoon, out in a barouche, 
on a pleasure ride through the city. Mrs. Lincoln was dress'd 
in complete black, with a long crape veil. The equipage is of the 
plainest kind, only two horses, and they nothing extra. They 
pass'd me once very close, and I saw the President in the face 
fully, as they were moving slowly, and his look, though abstracted, 
happen'd to be directed steadily in my eye. He bow'd and 
smiled, but far beneath his smile I noticed well the expression I 
have alluded to. None of the artists or pictures has caught the 
deep, though subtle and indirect expression of this man's face. 
There is something else there. One of the great portrait painters 
of two or three centuries ago is needed. 


There has lately been much suffering here from heat; we have 
had it upon us now eleven days. I go around with an umbrella 
and a fan. I saw two cases of sun-stroke yesterday, one in Penn- 
sylvania avenue, and another in Seventh street. The City rail- 
road company loses some horses every day. Yet Washington is 
having a livelier August, and is probably putting in a more ener- 
getic and satisfactory summer, than ever before during its exist- 
ence. There is probably more human electricity, more popula- 
tion to make it, more business, more light-heartedness, than ever 
before. The armies that swiftly circumambiated from Fredericks- 
burgh — march'd, struggled, fought, had out their mighty clinch 
and hurl at Gettysburg — wheel'd, circumambiated again, re- 
turn'd to their ways, touching us not, either at their going or 
coming. And Washington feels that she has pass'd the worst ; 
perhaps feels that she is henceforth mistress. So here she sits 
with her surrounding hills spotted with guns, and is conscious of 
a character and identity different from what it was five or six 
short weeks ago, and very considerably pleasanter and prouder. 

Soldiers, soldiers, soldiers, you meet everywhere about the 
city, often superb-looking men, though invalids dress'd in worn 
uniforms, and carrying canes or crutches. I often have talks 
with them, occasionally quite long and interesting. One, for in- 
stance, will have been all through the peninsula under McClellan 
— narrates to me the fights, the marches, the strange, quick 
changes of that eventful campaign, and gives glimpses of many 
things untold in any official reports or books or journals. These, 
indeed, are the things that are genuine and precious. The man 
was there, has been out two years, has been through a dozen 
fights, the superfluous flesh of talking is long work'd off him, and 
he gives me little but the hard meat and sinew. I find it re- 


freshing, these hardy, bright, intuitive, American young men, 
(experienc'd soldiers with all their youth.) The vocal play and 
significance moves one more than books. Then there hangs 
something majestic about a man who has borne his part in bat- 
tles, especially if he is very quiet regarding it when you desire 
him to unbosom. I am continually lost at the absence of blow- 
ing and blowers among these old-young American militaires. I 
have found some man or other who has been in every battle since 
the war began, and have talk'd with them about each one in 
every part of the United States, and many of the engagements 
on the rivers and harbors too. I find men here from every State 
in the Union, without exception. (There are more Southerners, 
especially border State men, in the Union army than is gener- 
ally supposed.*) I now doubt whether one can get a fair idea of 
what this war practically is, or what genuine America is, and her 
character, without some such experience as this I am having. 

Another characteristic scene of that dark and bloody 1863, 
from notes of my visit to Armory-square hospital, one hot but 
pleasant summer day. In ward H we approach the cot of a 
young lieutenant of one of the Wisconsin regiments. Tread the 
bare board floor lightly here, for the pain and panting of death 
are in this cot. I saw the lieutenant when he was first brought 
here from Chancellorsville, and have been with him occasionally 
from day to day and night to night. He had been getting along 
pretty well till night before last, when a sudden hemorrhage that 
could not be stopt came upon him, and to-day it still continues 
at intervals. Notice that water-pail by the side of the bed, with 
a quantity of blood and bloody pieces of muslin, nearly full; 
that tells the story. The poor young man is struggling painfully 
for breath, his great dark eyes with a glaze already upon them, 
and the choking faint but audible in his throat. An attendant 
sits by him, and will not leave him till the last ; yet little or 
nothing can be done. He will die here in an hour or two, with- 
out the presence of kith or kin. Meantime the ordinary chat 
and business of the ward a little way off goes on indifferently. 

* Mr. Garfield [In the House of Representatives, April zj, 'yg.) "Do 
gentlemen know that (leaving out all the border States) there were fifty regi- 
ments and seven companies of white men in our army fighting for the Union 
from the States that went into rebellion ? Do they know that from the single 
State of Kentucky more Union soldiers fought under our flag than Napoleon 
took into the battle of Waterloo ? more than Wellington took with all the 
allied armies against Napoleon? Do they remember that 186,000 color'd men 
fought under our flag against the rebellion and for the Union, and that of that 
number 90,000 were from the States which went into rebellion ? " 


Some of the inmates are laughing and joking, others are playing 
checkers or cards, others are reading, &c. 

I have noticed through most of the hospitals that as long as 
there is any chance for a man, no matter how bad he may be, 
the surgeon and nurses work hard, sometimes with curious tena- 
city, for his life, doing everything, and keeping somebody by him 
to execute the doctor's orders, and minister to him every minute 
night and day. See that screen there. As you advance through 
the dusk of early candle-light, a nurse will step forth on tip-toe, 
and silently but imperiously forbid you to make any noise, or 
perhaps to come near at all. Some soldier's life is flickering 
there, suspended between recovery and death. Perhaps at this 
moment the exhausted frame has just fallen into a light sleep 
that a step might shake. You must retire. The neighboring pa- 
tients must move in their stocking feet. I have been several 
times struck with such mark'd efforts — everything bent to save a 
life from the very grip of the destroyer. But when that grip is 
once firmly fix'd, leaving no hope or chance at all, the surgeon 
abandons the patient. If it is a case where stimulus is any relief, 
the nurse gives milk-punch or brandy, or whatever is wanted, ad 
libitum. There is no fuss made. Not a bit of sentimentalism or 
whining have I seen about a single death-bed in hospital or on 
the field, but generally impassive indifference. All is over, as far 
as any efforts can avail ; it is useless to expend emotions or labors. 
While there is a prospect they strive hard — at least most surgeons 
do; but death certain and evident, they yield the field. 


Aug., Sep., and Oct., *6j. — I am in the habit of going to all, 
and to Fairfax seminary, Alexandria, and over Long bridge to 
the great Convalescent camp. The journals publish a regular 
directory of them — a long list. As a specimen of almost any 
one of the larger of these hospitals, fancy to yourself a space of 
three to twenty acres of ground, on which are group'd ten or 
twelve very large wooden barracks, with, perhaps, a dozen or 
twenty, and sometimes more than that number, small buildings, 
capable altogether of accommodating from five hundred to a 
thousand or fifteen hundred persons. Sometimes these wooden 
barracks or wards, each of them perhaps from a hundred to a 
hundred and fifty feet long, are rang'd in a straight row, evenly 
fronting the street ; others are plann'd so as to form an immense 
V; and others again are ranged around a hollow square. They 
make altogether a huge cluster, with the additional tents, extra 
wards for contagious diseases, guard-houses, sutler's stores, chap- 
lain's house ; in the middle will probably be an edifice devoted 



to the offices of the surgeon in charge and the ward surgeons, 
principal attaches, clerks, &c. The wards are either letter'd al- 
phabetically, ward G, ward K, or else numerically, i, 2, 3, &c. 
Each has its ward surgeon and corps of nurses. Of course, there 
is, in the aggregate, quite a muster of employes, and over all the 
surgeon in charge. Here in Washington, when these army hos- 
pitals are all fill'd, (as they have been already several times,) 
they contain a population more numerous in itself than the whole 
of the Washington of ten or fifteen years ago. Within sight of 
the capitol, as I write, are some thirty or forty such collections, 
at times holding from fifty to seventy thousand men. Looking 
from any eminence and studying the topography in my rambles, 
I use them as landmarks. Through the rich August verdure of 
the trees, see that white group of buildings off yonder in the out- 
skirts ; then another cluster half a mile to the left of the first ; 
then another a mile to the right, and another a mile beyond, and 
still another between us and the first. Indeed, we can hardly 
look in any direction but these clusters are dotting the landscape 
and environs. That little town, as you might suppose it, off 
there on the brow of a hill, is indeed a town, but of wounds, 
sickness, and death. It is Finley hospital, northeast of the city, 
on Kendall green, as it used to be call'd. That other is Camp- 
bell hospital. Both are large establishments. I have known 
these two alone to have from two thousand to twenty five hun- 
dred inmates. Then there is Carver hospital, larger still, a wall'd 
and military city regularly laid out, and guarded by squads of 
sentries. Again, off east, Lincoln hospital, a still larger one ; 
and half a mile further Emory hospital. Still sweeping the eye 
around down the river toward Alexandria, we see, to the right, 
the locality where the Convalescent camp stands, with its five, 
eight, or sometimes ten thousand inmates. Even all these are 
but a portion. The Harewood, Mount Pleasant, Armory-square, 
Judiciary hospitals, are some of the rest, and all large collec- 


October 20th. — To-night, after leaving the hospital at 10 
o'clock, (I had been on self-imposed duty some five hours, pretty 
closely confined,) I wander'd a long time around Washington. 
The night was sweet, very clear, sufficiently cool, a voluptuous 
half-moon, slightly golden, the space near it of a transparent 
blue-gray tinge. I walk'd up Pennsylvania avenue, and then to 
Seventh street, and a long while around the Patent-office. Some- 
how it look'd rebukefully strong, majestic, there in the delicate 
moonlight. The sky, the planets, the constellations all so bright, 
so calm, so expressively silent, so soothing, after those hospital 



scenes. I wander' d to and fro till the moist moon set, long after 


Every now and then, in hospital or camp, there are beings I 
meet — specimens of unworldliness, disinterestedness, and animal 
purity and heroism — perhaps some unconscious Indianian, or 
from Ohio or Tennessee — on whose birth the calmness of heaven 
seems to have descended, and whose gradual growing up, what- 
ever the circumstances of work-life or change, or hardship, or 
small or no education that attended it, the power of a strange 
spiritual sweetness, fibre and inward health, have also attended. 
Something veil'd and abstracted is often a part of the manners 
of these beings. I have met them, I say, not seldom in the army, 
in camp, and in the hospitals. The Western regiments con- 
tain many of them. They are often young men, obeying the 
events and occasions about them, marching, soldiering, fighting, 
foraging, cooking, working on farms or at some trade before 
the war — unaware of their own nature, (as to that, who is aware 
of his own nature ?) their companions only understanding that 
they are different from the rest, more silent, " something odd 
about them," and apt to go off and meditate and muse in soli- 


Among other sights are immense droves of cattle with their 
drivers, passing through the streets of the city. Some of the 
men have a way of leading the cattle by a peculiar call, a wild, 
pensive hoot, quite musical, prolong'd, indescribable, sounding 
something between the cooing of a pigeon and^the hoot of an 
owl. I like to stand and look at the sight of one of these im- 
mense droves — a little way off — (as the dust is great.) There are 
always men on horseback, cracking their whips and shouting — 
the cattle low — some obstinate ox or steer attempts to escape — 
then a lively scene — the mounted men, always excellent riders 
and on good horses, dash after the recusant, and wheel and turn 
— a dozen mounted drovers, their great slouch'd, broad-brim'd 
hats, very picturesque — another dozen on foot — everybody cov- 
er' d with dust — long goads in their hands — an immense drove 
of perhaps iooo cattle — the shouting, hooting, movement, &c. 


To add to other troubles, amid the confusion of this great army 
of sick, it is almost impossible for a stranger to find any friend 
or relative, unless he has the patient's specific address to start 
upon. Besides the directory printed in the newspapers here, 



there are one or two general directories of the hospitals kept at 
provost's headquarters, but they are nothing like complete; they 
are never up to date, and, as things are, with the daily streams 
of coming and going and changing, cannot be. I have known 
cases, for instance such as a farmer coming here from northern 
New York to find a wounded brother, faithfully hunting round 
for a week, and then compell'd to leave and go home without 
getting any trace of him. When he got home he found a letter 
from the brother giving the right address. 


Culpepper, Va., Feb. '64. — Here I am pretty well down 
toward the extreme front. Three or four days ago General S., 
who is now in chief command, (I believe Meade is absent, sick,) 
moved a strong force southward from camp as if intending busi- 
ness. They went to the Rapidan ; there has since been some 
manoeuvring and a little fighting, but nothing of consequence. 
The telegraphic accounts given Monday morning last, make en- 
tirely too much of it, I should say. What General S. intended 
we here know not, but we trust in that competent commander. 
We were somewhat excited, (but not so very much either,) on 
Sunday, during the day and night, as orders were sent out to pack 
up and harness, and be ready to evacuate, to fall back towards 
Washington. But I was very sleepy and went to bed. Sometre : 
mendous shouts arousing me during the night, I went forth and 
found it was from the men above mention'd, who were returning. 
I talk'd with some of the men ; as usual I found them full of 
gayety, endurance, and many fine little outshows, the signs of 
the most excellent good manliness of the world. It was a curious 
sight to see those shadowy columns moving through the night. 
I stood unobserv'd in the darkness and watch'd them long. The 
mud was very deep. The men had their usual burdens, overcoats, 
knapsacks, guns and blankets. Along and along they filed by 
me, with often a laugh, a song, a cheerful word, but never once 
a murmur. It may have been odd,, but I never before so realized 
the majesty and reality of the American people en masse. It fell 
upon me like a great awe. The strong ranks moved neither fast 
nor slow. They had march' d seven or eight miles already through 
the slipping unctuous, mud. The brave First corps stopt here. 
The equally brave Third corps moved on to Brandy station. The 
famous Brooklyn 14th are here, guarding the town. You see their 
red legs actively moving everywhere. Then they have a theatre 
of their own here. They give musical performances, nearly 
everything done capitally. Of course the audience is a jam. It 
is good sport to attend one of these entertainments of the 14th. 



I like to look around at the soldiers, and the general collection 
in front of the curtain, more than the scene on the stage. 

One of the things to note here now is the arrival of the 
paymaster with his strong box, and the payment of bounties to 
veterans re-enlisting. Major H. is here to-day, with a small 
mountain of greenbacks, rejoicing the hearts of the 2d division 
of the First corps. In the midst of a rickety shanty, behind a 
little table, sit the major and clerk Eldridge, with the rolls be- 
fore them, and much moneys. A re-enlisted man gets in cash 
about $200 down, (and heavy instalments following, as the pay- 
days arrive, one after another.) The show of the men crowding 
around is quite exhilarating ; I like to stand and look. They 
feel elated, their pockets full, and the ensuing furlough, the visit 
home. It is a scene of sparkling eyes and flush' d cheeks. The 
soldier has many gloomy and harsh experiences, and this makes 
up for some of them. Major H. is order' d to pay first all the 
re-enlisted men of the First corps their bounties and back pay, 
and then the rest. You hear the peculiar sound of the rustling of 
the new and crisp greenbacks by the hour, through the nimble 
fingers of the major and my friend clerk E. 


About the excitement of Sunday, and the orders to be ready 
to start, I have heard since that the raid orders came from some 
cautious minor commander, and that the high principalities knew 
not and thought not of any such move ; which is likely. The 
rumor and fear here intimated a long circuit by Lee, and flank 
attack on our right. But I cast my eyes at the mud, which was 
then at its deepest and palmiest condition, and retired com- 
posedly to rest. Still it is about time for Culpepper to have a 
change. Authorities have chased each other here like clouds in 
a stormy sky. Before the first Bull Run this was the rendezvous 
and camp of instruction of the secession troops. I am stopping 
at the house of a lady who has witness'd all the eventful changes 
of the war, along this route of contending armies. She is a 
widow, with a family of young children, and lives here with her 
sister in a large handsome house. A number of army officers 
board with them. 


Dilapidated, fenceless, and trodden with war as Virginia is, 
wherever I move across her surface, I find myself rous'd to sur- 
prise and admiration. What capacity for products, improvements, 
human life, nourishment and expansion. Everywhere that I 
have been in the Old Dominion, (the subtle mockery of that 


title now !) such thoughts have fill'd me. The soil is yet far 
above the average of any of the northern States. And how full 
of breadth the scenery, everywhere distant mountains, every- 
where convenient rivers. Even yet prodigal in forest woods, 
and surely eligible for all the fruits, orchards, and flowers. The 
skies and atmosphere most luscious, as 1 feel certain, from more 
than a year's residence in the State, and movements hither and 
yon. I should say very healthy, as a general thing. Then a rich 
and elastic quality, by night and by day. The sun rejoices in 
his strength, dazzling and burning, and yet, to me, never un- 
pleasantly weakening. It is not the panting tropical heat, but 
invigorates. The north tempers it. The nights are often un- 
surpassable. Last evening (Feb. 8,) I saw the first of the new 
moon, the outlined old moon clear along with it ; the sky and 
air so clear, such transparent hues of color, it seem'd to me I had 
never really seen the new moon before. It was the thinnest cut 
crescent possible. It hung delicate just above the sulky shadow 
of the Blue mountains. Ah, if it might prove an omen and good 
prophecy for this unhappy State. 

SUMMER OF 1864. 

I am back again in Washington, on my regular daily and 
nightly rounds. Of course there are many specialties. Dotting 
a ward here and there are always cases of poor fellows, long-suf- 
fering under obstinate wounds, or weak and dishearten' d from 
typhoid fever, or the like ; mark'd cases, needing special and 
sympathetic nourishment. These I sit down and either talk to, 
or silently cheer them up. They always like it hugely, (and so 
do I.) Each case has its peculiarities, and needs some new 
adaptation. I have learnt to thus conform — learnt a good deal 
of hospital wisdom. Some of the poor young chaps, away from 
home for the first time in their lives, hunger and thirst for affec- 
tion ; this is sometimes the only thing that will reach their con- 
dition. The men like to have a pencil, and something to write 
in. I have given them cheap pocket-diaries, and almanacs for 
1864, interleav'd with blank paper. For reading I generally 
have some old pictorial magazines or story papers — they are al- 
ways acceptable. Also the morning or evening papers of the 
day. The best books I do not give, but lend to read through 
the wards, and then take them to others, and so on ; they are 
very punctual about returning the books. In these wards, or on 
the field, as I thus continue to go round, I have come to adapt 
myself to each emergency, after its kind or call, however trivial, 
however solemn, every one justified and made real under its cir- 
cumstances — not only visits and cheering talk and little gifts-*- 



not only washing and dressing wounds, (I have some cases where 
the patient is unwilling any one should do this but me) — but 
passages from the Bible, expounding them, prayer at the bed- 
side, explanations of doctrine, &c. (I think I see my friends 
smiling at this confession, but I was never more in earnest in my 
life.) In camp and everywhere, I was in the habit of reading or 
giving recitations to the men. They were very fond of it, and 
liked declamatory poetical pieces. We would gather in a large 
group by ourselves, after supper, and spend the time in such 
readings, or in talking, and occasionally by an amusing game 
called the game of twenty questions. 


It is plain to me out of the events of the war, north and south, 
and out of all considerations, that the current military theory, 
practice, rules and organization, (adopted from Europe from the 
feudal institutes, with, of course, the "modern improvements," 
largely from the French,) though tacitly follow'd, and believ'd 
in by the officers generally, are not at all consonant with the 
United States, nor our people, nor our days. What it will be I 
know not — but I know that as entire an abnegation of the present 
military system, and the naval too, and a building up from radi- 
cally different root-bases and centres appropriate to us, must 
eventually result, as that our political system has resulted and be- 
come establish'd, different from feudal Europe, and built up on 
itself from original, perennial, democratic premises. We have 
undoubtedly in the United States the greatest military power — 
an exhaustless, intelligent, brave and reliable rank and file — in 
the world, any land, perhaps all lands. The problem is to or- 
ganize this in the manner fully appropriate to it, to the princi- 
ples of the republic, and to get the best service out of it. In 
the present struggle, as already seen and review'd, probably three- 
fourths of the losses, men, lives, &c, have been sheer superfluity, 
extravagance, waste. 


I wonder if I could ever convey to another — to you, for in- 
stance, reader dear — the tender and terrible realities of such 
cases, (many, many happen'd,) as the one I am now going to 
mention. Stewart C. Glover, company E, 5th Wisconsin — was 
wounded May 5, in one of those fierce tussles of the Wilderness — 
died May 21 — aged about 20. He was a small and beardless 
young man — a splendid soldier — in fact almost an ideal Ameri- 
can, of his age. He had serv'd nearly three years, and would 
have been entitled to his discharge in a few days. He was in 
Hancock's corps. The fighting had about ceas'd for the day, 



and the general commanding the brigade rode by and call'd for 
volunteers to bring in the wounded. Glover responded among 
the first — went out gayly — but while in the act of bearing in a 
wounded sergeant to our lines, was shot in the knee by a rebel 
sharpshooter ; consequence, amputation and death. He had re- 
sided with his father, John Glover, an aged and feeble man, in 
Batavia, Genesee county, N. Y., but was at school in Wisconsin, 
after the war broke out, and there enlisted — soon took to soldier- 
life, liked it, was very manly, was belov'd by officers and com- 
rades. He kept a little diary, like so many of the soldiers. On 
the day of his death he wrote the following in it, to-day the doctor 
says I must die — all is over with me — ah, so young to die. On an- 
other blank leaf he pencill'd to his brother, dear brother Thomas, 
I have been brave but wicked— pray for me. 


It is Sunday afternoon, middle of summer, hot and oppressive, 
and very silent through the ward. I am taking care of a critical 
case, now lying in a half lethargy. Near where I sit is a suffer- 
ing rebel, from the 8th Louisiana ; his name is Irving. He has 
been here a long time, badly wounded, and lately had his leg 
amputated ; it is not doing very well. Right opposite me is a 
sick soldier-boy, laid down with his clothes on, sleeping, looking 
much wasted, his pallid face on his arm. I see by the yellow 
trimming on his jacket that he is a cavalry boy. I step softly 
over and find by his card that he is named William Cone, of the 
ist Maine cavalry, and his folks live in Skowhegan. 

Ice Cream Treat. — One hot day toward the middle of June, I 
gave the inmates of Carver hospital a general ice cream treat, 
purchasing a large quantity, and, under convoy of the doctor or 
head nurse, going around personally through the wards to see to 
its distribution. 

An Incident. — In one of the fights before Atlanta, a rebel sol- 
dier, of large size, evidently a young man, was mortally wounded 
top of the head, so that the brains partially exuded. He lived 
three days, lying on his back on the spot where he first dropt. 
He dug with his heel in the ground during that time a hole big 
enough to put in a couple of ordinary knapsacks. He just lay 
there in the open air, and with little intermission kept his heel 
going night and day. Some of our soldiers then moved him to 
a house, but he died in a few minutes. 

Another. — After the battles at Columbia, Tennessee, where we 
repuls'd about a score of vehement rebel charges, they left a 
great many wounded on the ground, mostly within our range. 
Whenever any of these wounded attempted to move away by any 



means, generally by crawling off, our men without exception 
brought them down by a bullet. They let none crawl away, no 
matter what his condition. 


As I turn'd off the Avenue one cool October evening into 
Thirteenth street, a soldier with knapsack and overcoat stood at 
the corner inquiring his way. I found he wanted to go part of 
the road in my direction, so we walk'd on together. We soon 
fell into conversation. He was small and not very young, and a 
tough little fellow, as I judged in the evening light, catching 
glimpses by the lamps we pass'd. His answers were short, but 
clear. His name was Charles Carroll ; he belong' d to one of the 
Massachusetts regiments, and was born in or near Lynn. His 
parents were living, but were very old. There were four sons, 
and all had enlisted. Two had died of starvation and misery in 
the prison at Andersonville, and one had been kill'd in the west. 
He only was left. He was now going home, and by the way he 
talk'd I inferr'd that his time was nearly out. He made great 
calculations on being with his parents to comfort them the rest 
of their days. 


Michael Stansbury, 48 years of age, a sea-faring man, a south- 
erner by birth and raising, formerly captain of U. S. light ship 
Long Shoal, station'd at Long Shoal point, Pamlico sound — though 
a southerner, a firm Union man — was captur'd Feb. 17, 1863, 
and has been nearly two years in the Confederate prisons; was 
at one time order'd releas'd by Governor Vance, but a rebel offi- 
cer re-arrested him ; then sent on to Richmond for exchange — 
but instead of being exchanged was sent down (as a southern 
citizen, not a soldier,) to Salisbury, N. C, where he remain'd 
until lately, when he escap'd among the exchang'd by assuming 
the name of a dead soldier, and coming up via Wilmington with 
the rest. Was about sixteen months in Salisbury. Subsequent 
to October, '64, there were about 11,000 Union prisoners in the 
stockade; about 100 of them southern unionists, 200 U. S. de- 
serters. During the past winter 1500 of the prisoners, to save 
their lives, join'd the confederacy, on condition of being assign'd 
merely to guard duty. Out of the 11,000 not more than 2500 
came out ; 500 of these were pitiable, helpless wretches — the rest 
were in a condition to travel. There were often 60 dead bodies 
to be buried in the morning; the daily average would be about 
40. The regular food was a meal of corn, the cob and husk 
ground together, and sometimes once a week a ration of sorghum 
molasses. A diminutive ration of meat might possibly come 



once a month, not oftener. In the stockade, containing the 
ii>ooo men, there was a partial show of tents, not enough for 
2000. A large proportion of the men lived in holes in the 
ground, in the utmost wretchedness. Some froze to death, others 
had their hands and feet frozen. The rebel guards would occa- 
sionally, and on the least pretence, fire into the prison from mere 
demonism and wantonness. All the horrors that can be named, 
starvation, lassitude, filth, vermin, despair, swift loss of self-respect, 
idiocy, insanity, and frequent murder, were there. Stansbury has 
a wife and child living in Newbern — has written to them from 
here — is in the U. S. light-house employ still — (had been home 
to Newbern to see his family, and on his return to the ship was 
captured in his boat.) Has seen men brought there to Salisbury 
as hearty as you ever see in your life — in a few weeks completely 
dead gone, much of it from thinking on their condition — hope 
all gone. Has himself a hard, sad, -strangely deaden'd kind of 
look, as of one chill'd for years in the cold and dark, where his 
good manly nature had no room to exercise itself. 


Oct. 24. — Saw a large squad of our own deserters, (over 300) 
surrounded with a cordon of arm'd guards, marching along Penn- 
sylvania avenue. The most motley collection I ever saw, all 
sorts of rig, all sorts of hats and caps, many fine-looking young 
fellows, some of them shame-faced, some sickly, most of them 
dirty, shirts very dirty and long worn, &c. They tramp'd along 
without order, a huge huddling mass, not in ranks. I saw some 
of the spectators laughing, but I felt like anything else but laugh- 
ing. These deserters are far more numerous than would be 
thought. Almost every day I see squads of them, sometimes two 
or three at a time, with a small guard ; sometimes ten or twelve, 
under a larger one. (I hear that desertions from the army now 
in the field have often averaged 10,000 a month. One of the 
commonest sights in Washington is a squad of deserters.) 


In one of the late movements of our troops in the valley, (near 
Upperville, I think,) a strong force of Moseby's mounted gueril- 
las attack'd a train of wounded, and the guard of cavalry con- 
voying them. The ambulances contain' d about 60 wounded, 
quite a number of them officers of rank. The rebels were in 
strength, and the capture of the train and its partial guard after 
a short snap was effectually accomplished. No sooner had our 
men surrender'd, the rebels instantly commenced robbing the 
train and murdering their prisoners, even the wounded. Here is 



the scene or a sample of it, ten minutes after. Among the 
wounded officers in the ambulances were one, a lieutenant of 
regulars, and another of higher rank. These two were dragg'd 
out on the ground on their backs, and were now surrounded by 
the guerillas, a demoniac crowd, each member of which was stab- 
bing them in different parts of their bodies. One of the officers 
had his feet pinn'd firmly to the ground by bayonets stuck through 
them and thrust into the ground. These two officers, as after- 
wards found on examination, had receiv'd about twenty such 
thrusts, some of them through the mouth, face, &c. The 
wounded had all been dragg'd (to give a better chance also for 
plunder,) out of their wagons; some had been effectually dis- 
patch'd, and their bodies were lying there lifeless and bloody. 
Others, not yet dead, but horribly mutilated, were moaning or 
groaning. Of our men who surrender'd, most had been thus 
maim'd or slaughter'd. 

At this instant a force of our cavalry, who had been following 
the train at some interval, charged suddenly upon the secesh cap- 
tors, who proceeded at once to make the best escape they could. 
Most of them got away, but we gobbled two officers and seven- 
teen men, in the very acts just described. The sight was one 
which admitted of little discussion, as may be imagined. The 
seventeen captur'd men and two officers were put under guard 
for the night, but it was decided there and then that they should 
die. The next morning the two officers were taken in the town, 
separate places, put in the centre of the street, and shot. The 
seventeen men were taken to an open ground, a little one side. 
They were placed in a hollow square, half-encompass'd by two 
of our cavalry regiments, one of which regiments had three days 
before found the bloody corpses of three of their men hamstrung 
and hung up by the heels to limbs of trees by Moseby's guerillas, 
and the other had not long before had twelve men, after surren- 
dering, shot and then hung by the neck to limbs of trees, and 
jeering inscriptions pinn'd to the breast of one of the corpses, 
who had been a sergeant. Those three, and those twelve, had 
been found, I say, by these environing regiments. Now, with 
revolvers, they form'd the grim cordon of the seventeen prison- 
ers. The latter were placed in the midst of the hollow square, 
unfasten'd, and the ironical remark made to them that they were 
now to be given "a. chance for themselves." A few ran for it. 
But what use ? From every side the deadly pills came. In a few 
minutes the seventeen corpses strew'd the hollow square. I was 
curious to know whether some of the Union soldiers, some few, 
(some one or two at least of the youngsters,) did not abstain 
from shooting on the helpless men. Not one. There was no 


exultation, very little said, almost nothing, yet every man there 
contributed his shot. 

Multiply the above by scores, aye hundreds — verify it in all 
the forms that different circumstances, individuals, places, could 
afford — light it with every lurid passion, the wolfs, the lion's 
lapping thirst for blood — the passionate, boiling volcanoes of hu- 
man revenge for comrades, brothers slain — with the light of burn- 
ing farms, and heaps of smutting, smouldering black embers — 
and in the human heart everywhere black, worse embers — and 
you have an inkling of this war. 


As a very large proportion of the wounded came up from 
the front without a cent of money in their pockets, I soon dis- 
cover'd that it was about the best thing I could do to raise 
their spirits, and show them that somebody cared for them, and 
practically felt a fatherly or brotherly interest in them, to give 
them small sums in such cases, using tact and discretion about 
it. I am regularly supplied with funds for this purpose by good 
women and men in Boston, Salem, Providence, Brooklyn, and 
New York. I provide myself with a quantity of bright new ten- 
cent and five-cent bills, and, when I think it incumbent, I give 
25 or 30 cents, or perhaps 50 cents, and occasionally a still larger 
sum to some particular case. As I have started this subject, I 
take opportunity to ventilate the financial question. My supplies, 
altogether voluntary, mostly confidential, often seeming quite 
Providential, were numerous and varied. For instance, there 
were two distant and wealthy ladies, sisters, who sent regularly, 
for two years, quite heavy sums, enjoining that their names should 
be kept secret. The same delicacy was indeed a frequent condi- 
tion. From several I had carte blanche. Many were entire 
strangers. From these sources, during from two to three years, 
in the manner described, in the hospitals, I bestowed, as almoner 
for others, many, many thousands of dollars. I learn'd one thing 
conclusively — that beneath all the ostensible greed and heartless- 
ness of our times there is no end to the generous benevolence of 
men and women in the United States, when once sure of their 
object. Another thing became clear to me — while cash is not 
amiss to bring up the rear, tact and magnetic sympathy and unc- 
tion are, and ever will be, sovereign still. 

Some of the half-eras'd, and not over-legible when made, mem- 
oranda of things wanted by one patient or another, will convey 
quite a fair idea. D. S. G., bed 52, wants a good book; has a 
sore, weak throat ; would like some horehound candy; is from 



New Jersey, 28th regiment. C. H. L., 145th Pennsylvania, lies 
in bed 6, with jaundice and erysipelas; also wounded; stomach 
easily nauseated ; bring him some oranges, also a little tart jelly ; 
hearty, full-blooded young fellow— (he got better in a few days, 
and is now home on a furlough.) J. H. G., bed 24, wants an 
undershirt, drawers, and socks ; has not had a change for quite 
a while ; is evidently a neat, clean boy from New England— (I 
supplied him ; also with a comb, tooth-brush, and some soap and 
towels ; I noticed afterward he was the cleanest of the whole 
ward.) Mrs. G., lady-nurse, ward F, wants a bottle of brandy 
— has two patients imperatively requiring stimulus — low with 
wounds and exhaustion. (I supplied her with a bottle of first- 
rate brandy from the Christian commission rooms.) 

Well, poor John Mahay is dead. He died yesterday. His 
was a painful and long-lingering case, (see p. 30 ante?) I have 
been with him at times for the past fifteen months. He belonged 
to company A, 101st New York, and was shot through the lower 
region of the abdomen at second Bull Run, August, '62. One 
scene at his bedside will suffice for the agonies of nearly two 
years. The bladder had been perforated by a bullet going en- 
tirely through him. Not long since I sat a good part of the morn- 
ing by his bedside, ward E, Armory square. The water ran out 
of his eyes from the intense pain, and the muscles of his face 
were distorted, but he utter'd nothing except a low groan now 
and then. Hot moist cloths were applied, and reliev'd him some- 
what. Poor Mahay, a mere boy in age, but old in misfortune. 
He never knew the love of parents, was placed in infancy in one 
of the New York charitable institutions, and subsequently bound 
out to a tyrannical master in Sullivan county, (the scars of whose 
cowhide and club remain'd yet on his back.) His wound here 
was a most disagreeable one, for he was a gentle, cleanly, and af- 
fectionate boy. He found friends in his hospital life, and, indeed, 
was a universal favorite. He had quite a funeral ceremony. 

I must bear my most emphatic testimony to the zeal, manli- 
ness, and professional spirit and capacity, generally prevailing 
among the surgeons, many of them young men, in the hospitals 
and the army. I will not say much about the exceptions, for they 
are few ; (but I have met some of those few, and very incompe- 
tent and airish they were.) I never ceas'd to find the best men, 
and the hardest and most disinterested workers, among the sur- 
geons in the hospitals. They are full of genius, too. I have 
seen many hundreds of them and this is my testimony. There 



are, however, serious deficiencies, wastes, sad want of system, 
in the commissions, contributions, and in all the voluntary, and 
a great part of the governmental nursing, edibles, medicines, 
stores, &c. (I do not say surgical attendance, because the sur- 
geons cannot do more than human endurance permits.) What- 
ever puffing accounts there may be in the papers of the North, 
this is the actual fact. No thorough previous preparation, no 
system, no foresight, no genius. Always plenty of stores, no 
doubt, but never where they are needed, and never the proper 
application. Of all harrowing experiences, none is greater than 
that of the days following a heavy battle. Scores, hundreds of 
the noblest men on earth, uncomplaining, lie helpless, mangled, 
faint, alone, and so bleed to death, or die from exhaustion, either 
actually untouch'd at all, or merely the laying of them down 
and leaving them, when there ought to be means provided to save 


This city, its suburbs, the capitol, the front of the White 
House, the places of amusement, the Avenue, and all the main 
streets, swarm with soldiers this winter, more than ever before. 
Some are out from the hospitals, some from the neighboring 
camps, &c. One source or another, they pour plenteously, and 
make, I should say, the mark'd feature in the human movement 
and costume-appearance of our national city. Their blue pants 
and overcoats are everywhere. The clump of crutches is heard 
up the stairs of the paymasters' offices, and there are character- 
istic groups around the doors of the same, often waiting long and 
wearily in the cold. Toward the latter part of the afternoon, 
you see the furlough'd men, sometimes singly, sometimes in small 
squads, making their way to the Baltimore depot. At all times, 
except early in the morning, the patrol detachments are moving 
around, especially during the earlier hours of evening, examining 
passes, and arresting all soldiers without them. They do not 
question the one-legged, or men badly disabled or maim'd, but 
all others are stopt. They also go around evenings through the 
auditoriums of the theatres, and make officers and all show their 
passes, or other authority,- for being there. 

Sunday, January 29th, 1865. — Have been in Armory-square 
this afternoon. The wards are very comfortable, new floors and 
plaster walls, and models of neatness. I am not sure but this is 
a model hospital after all, in important respects. I found several 
sad cases of old lingering wounds. One Delaware soldier, William 
H. Millis, from Bridgeville, whom I had been with after the bat- 


ties of the Wilderness, last May, where he receiv'd a very bad 
wound in the chest, with another in the left arm, and whose case 
was serious (pneumonia had set in) all last June and July, I now 
find well enough to do light duty. For three weeks at the time 
mention'd he just hovered between life and death. 


As I walk'd home about sunset, I saw in Fourteenth street a 
very young soldier, thinly clad, standing near the house I was 
about to enter. I stopt a moment in front of the door and call'd 
him to me. I knew that an old Tennessee regiment, and also an 
Indiana regiment, were temporarily stopping in new barracks, 
near Fourteenth street. This boy I found belonged to the Ten- 
nessee regiment. But I could hardly believe he carried a musket. 
He was but 15 years old, yet had been twelve months a soldier, 
and had borne his part in several battles, even historic ones. I 
ask'd him if he did not suffer from the cold, and if he had no 
overcoat. No, he did not suffer from cold, and had no overcoat, 
but could draw one whenever he wish'd. His father was dead, 
and his mother living in some part of East Tennessee ; all the 
men were from that part of the country. The next forenoon I 
saw the Tennessee and Indiana regiments marching down the 
Avenue. My boy was with the former, stepping along with the 
rest. There were many other boys no older. I stood and watch' d 
them as they tramp'd along with slow, strong, heavy, regular 
steps. There did not appear to be a man over 30 years of age, 
and a large proportion were from 15 to perhaps 22 or 23. They 
had all the look of veterans, worn, stain'd, impassive, and a cer- 
tain unbent, lounging gait, carrying in addition to their regular 
arms and knapsacks, frequently a frying-pan, broom, &c. They 
were all ot pleasant physiognomy; no refinement, nor blanch' d 
with intellect, but as my eye pick'd them, moving along, rank 
by rank, there did not seem to be a single repulsive, brutal or 
markedly stupid face among them. 


Here is an incident just occurr'd in one of the hospitals. A 
lady named Miss or Mrs. Billings, who has long been a practical 
friend of soldiers, and nurse in the army, and had become at- 
tached to it in a way that no one can realize but him or her who 
has had experience, was taken sick, early this winter, linger'd 
some time, and finally died in the hospital. It was her request 
that she should be^ buried among the soldiers, and after the mili- 
tary method. This request was fully carried out. Her coffin was 
carried to the grave by soldiers, with the usual escort, buried, 


and a salute fired over the grave. This was at Annapolis a few 
days since. 


There are many women in one position or another, among the 
hospitals, mostly as nurses ^here in Washington, and among the 
military stations ; quite a number of them young ladies acting as 
volunteers. They are a help in certain ways, and deserve to be 
mention'd with respect. Then it remains to be distinctly said 
that few or no young ladies, under the irresistible conventions of 
society, answer the practical requirements of nurses for soldiers. 
Middle-aged or healthy and good condition'd elderly women, 
mothers of children, are always best. Many of the wounded 
must be handled. A hundred things which cannot be gainsay'd, 
must occur and must be done. The presence of a good middle- 
aged or elderly woman, the magnetic touch of hands, the ex- 
pressive features of the mother, the silent soothing of her pres- 
ence, her words, her knowledge and privileges arrived at only 
through having had children, are precious and final qualifications. 
It is a natural faculty that is required ; it is not merely having 
a genteel young woman at a table in a ward. One of the finest 
nurses I met was a red-faced illiterate old Irish woman ; I have 
seen her take the poor wasted naked boys so tenderly up in her 
arms. There are plenty of excellent clean old black women that 
would make tip-top nurses. 


Feb. 2j y '65. — I saw a large procession of young men from the 
rebel army, (deserters they are call'd, but the usual meaning of 
the word does not apply to them,) passing the Avenue to-day. 
There were nearly 200, come up yesterday by boat from James 
river. I stood and watch'd them as they shuffled along, in a 
slow, tired, worn sort of way; a large proportion of light-hair'd, 
blonde, light gray-eyed young men among them. Their costumes 
had a dirt-stain'd uniformity; most had been originally gray; 
some had articles of our uniform, pants on one, vest or coat on 
another ; I think they were mostly Georgia and North Carolina 
boys. They excited little or no attention. As I stood quite 
close to them, several good looking enough youths, (but O what 
a tale of misery their appearance told,) nodded or just spoke to 
me, without doubt divining pity and fatherliness out of my face, 
for my heart was full enough of it. Several of the couples trudg'd 
along with their arms about each other, some probably brothers, 
as if they were afraid they might somehow get separated. They 
nearly all look'd what one might call simple, yet intelligent, too. 
Some had pieces of old carpet, some blankets, and others old 



bags around their shoulders. Some of them here and there had 
fine faces, still it was a procession of misery. The two hundred 
had with them about half a dozen arm'd guards. Along this 
week I saw some such procession, more or less in numbers, every- 
day, as they were brought up by the boat. The government does 
what it can for them, and sends them north and west. 

j? e b % 27. Some three or four hundred more escapees from the 

confederate army came up on the boat. As the day has been 
very pleasant indeed, (after a long spell of bad weather,) I have 
been wandering around a good deal, without any other object 
than to be out-doors and enjoy it ; have met these escaped men 
in all directions. Their apparel is the same ragged, long-worn 
motley as before described. I talk'd with a number of the men. 
Some are quite bright and stylish, for all their poor clothes — 
walking with an air, wearing their old head-coverings on one 
side, quite saucily. I find the old, unquestionable proofs, as all 
along the past four years, of the unscrupulous tyranny exercised 
by the secession government in conscripting the common people 
by absolute force everywhere, and paying no attention whatever 
to the men's time being up — keeping them in military service 
just the same. One gigantic young fellow, a Georgian, at least 
six feet three inches high, broad-sized in proportion, attired in 
the dirtiest, drab, well-smear'd rags, tied with strings, his trou- 
sers at the knees all strips and streamers, was complacently stand- 
ing eating some bread and meat. He appear'd contented 
enough. Then a few minutes after I saw him slowly walking 
along. It was plain he did not take anything to heart. 

Feb. 28. — As I pass'd the military headquarters of the city, 
not far from the President's house, I stopt to interview some of 
the crowd of escapees who were lounging there. In appearance 
they were the same as previously mention'd. Two of them, one 
about 17, and the other perhaps 25 or '6, I talk'd with some time. 
They were from North Carolina, born and rais'd there, and had 
folks there. The elder had been in the rebel service four years. 
He was first conscripted for two years. He was then kept arbi- 
trarily in the ranks. This is the case with a large proportion of 
the secession army. There was nothing downcast in these young 
men's manners; the younger had been soldiering about a 
year ; he was conscripted ; there were six brothers (all the boys 
of the family) in the army, part of them as conscripts, part as 
volunteers; three had been kill'd ; one had escaped about four 
months ago, and now this one had got away ; he was a pleasant 
and well-talking lad, with the peculiar North Carolina idiom (not 
at all disagreeable to my ears.) He and the elder one were of 
the same company, and escaped together — and wish'd to remain 


together. They thought of getting transportation away to Mis- 
souri, and working there ; but were not sure it was judicious. I 
advised them rather to go to some of the directly northern States, 
and get farm work for the present. The younger had made six 
dollars on the boat, with some tobacco he brought ; he had 
three and a half left. The elder had nothing ; I gave him a 
trifle. Soon after, met John Wormley, 9th Alabama, a West 
Tennessee rais'd boy, parents both dead — had the look of one 
for a long time on short allowance — said very little — chew'd to- 
bacco at a fearful rate, spitting in proportion — large clear dark- 
brown eyes, very fine — didn't know what to make of me — told 
me at last he wanted much to get some clean underclothes, and 
a pair of decent pants. Didn't care about coat or hat fixings. 
Wanted a chance to wash himself well, and put on the under- 
clothes. I had the very great pleasure of helping him to accom- 
plish all those wholesome designs. 

March 1st. — Plenty more butternut or clay-color' d escapees 
every day. About 160 came in to-day, a large portion South 
Carolinians. They generally take the oath of allegiance, and are 
sent north, west, or extreme south-west if they wish. Several of 
them told me that the desertions in their army, of men going 
home, leave or no leave, are far more numerous than their deser- 
tions to our side. I saw a very forlorn looking squad of about a 
hundred, late this afternoon, on their way to the Baltimore 


To-night I have been wandering awhile in the capitol, which 
is all lit up. The illuminated rotunda looks fine. I like to 
stand aside and look a long, long while, up at the dome; it com- 
forts me somehow. The House and Senate were both in session 
till very late. I look'd in upon them, but only a few moments; 
they were hard at work on tax and appropriation bills. I wan- 
der' d through the long and rich corridors and apartments under 
the Senate ; an old habit of mine, former winters, and now more 
satisfaction than ever. Not many persons down there, occasion- 
ally a flitting figure in the distance. 

March 4. — The President very quietly rode down to the capi- 
tol in his own carriage, by himself, on a sharp trot, about noon, 
either because he wish'd to be on hand to sign bills, or to get 
rid of marching in line with the absurd procession, the muslin 
temple of liberty, and pasteboard monitor. I saw him on his 
return, at three o'clock, after the performance was over. He 
was in his plain two-horse barouche, and look'd very much worn 



and tired ; the lines, indeed, of vast responsibilities, intricate 
questions, and demands of life and death, cut deeper than ever 
upon his dark brown face ; yet all the old goodness, tenderness, 
sadness, and canny shrewdness, underneath the furrows. (I never 
see that man without feeling that he is one to become personally 
attach'd to, for his combination of purest, heartiest tenderness, 
and native western form of manliness.) By his side sat his little 
boy, of ten years. There were no soldiers, only a lot of civilians 
on horseback, with huge yellow scarfs over their shoulders, riding 
around the carriage. (At the inauguration four years ago, he 
rode down and back again surrounded by a dense mass of arm'd 
cavalrymen eight deep, with drawn sabres; and there were sharp- 
shooters station'd at every corner on the route.) I ought to 
make mention of the closing levee of Saturday night last. Never 
before was such a compact jam in front of the White House — all 
the grounds fill'd, and away out to the spacious sidewalks. I 
was there, as I took a notion to go — was in the rush inside with 
the crowd — surged along the passage-ways, the blue and other 
rooms, and through the great east room. Crowds of country 
people, some very funny. Fine music from the Marine band, 
off in a side place. I saw Mr. Lincoln, drest all in black, with 
white kid gloves and a claw-hammer coat, receiving, as in duty 
bound, shaking hands, looking very disconsolate, and as if he 
would give anything to be somewhere else. 


Looking over my scraps, I find I wrote the following during 
1864. The happening to our America, abroad as well as at home, 
these years, is indeed most strange. The democratic republic 
has paid her to-day the terrible and resplendent compliment of 
the united wish of all the nations of the world that her union 
should be broken, her future cut off, and that she should be com- 
pell'd to descend to the level of kingdoms and empires ordinarily 
great. There is certainly not one government in Europe but is 
now watching the war in this country, with the ardent prayer 
that the United States may be effectually split, crippled, and dis- 
member'd by it. There is not one but would help toward that 
dismemberment, if it dared. I say such is the ardent wish to-day 
of England and of France, as governments, and of all the nations 
of Europe, as governments. I think indeed it is to-day the real, 
heartfelt wishfof all the nations of the world, with the single ex- 
ception of Mexico— Mexico, the only one to whom we have ever 
really done wrong, and now the only one who prays for us and 
for our triumph, with genuine prayer. Is it not indeed strange? 
America, made up of all, cheerfully from the beginning opening 


her arms to all, the result and justifier of all, of Britain, Ger- 
many, France and Spain — all here — the accepter, the friend, 
hope, last resource and general house of all — she who has harm'd 
none, but been bounteous to so many, to millions, the mother of 
strangers and exiles, all nations — should now I say be paid this 
dread compliment of general governmental fear and hatred. Are 
we indignant? alarm'd? Do we feel jeopardized? No; help'd, 
braced, concentrated, rather. We are all too prone to wander 
from ourselves, to affect Europe, and watch her frowns and smiles. 
We need this hot lesson of general hatred, and henceforth must 
never forget it. Never again will we trust the moral sense nor 
abstract friendliness of a single government of the old world. 


Whether the rains, the heat and cold, and what underlies them 
all, are affected with what affects man in masses, and follow his 
play of passionate action, strain'd stronger than usual, and on a 
larger scale than usual — whether this, or no, it is certain that 
there is now, and has been for twenty months or more, on this 
American continent north, many a remarkable, many an unpre- 
cedented expression of the subtile world of air above us and 
around us. There, since this war, and the wide and deep na- 
tional agitation, strange analogies, different combinations, a dif- 
ferent sunlight, or absence of it ; different products even out of 
the ground. After every great battle, a great storm. Even civic 
events the same. On Saturday last, a forenoon like whirling 
demons, dark, with slanting rain, full of rage ; and then the after- 
noon, so calm, so bathed with flooding splendor from heaven's 
most excellent sun, with atmosphere of sweetness ; so clear, it 
show'd the stars, long, long before they were due. As the Presi- 
dent came out on the capitol portico, a curious little white cloud, 
the only one in that part of the sky, appear' d like a hovering 
bird, right over him. 

Indeed, the heavens, the elements, all the meteorological in- 
fluences, have run riot for weeks past. Such caprices, abruptest 
alternation of frowns and beauty, I never knew. It is a common 
remark that (as last summer was different in its spells of intense 
heat from any preceding it,) the winter just completed has been 
without parallel. It has remain'd so down to the hour I am 
writing. Much of the daytime of the past month was sulky, with 
leaden heaviness, fog, interstices of bitter cold, and some insane 
storms. But there have been samples of another description. 
Nor earth nor sky ever knew spectacles of superber beauty than 
some of the nights lately here. The western star, Venus, in the 
earlier hours of evening, has never been so large, so clear ; it 



seems as if it told something, as if it held rapport indulgent 
with humanity, with us Americans. Five or six nights since, it 
hung close by the moon, then a little past its first quarter. The 
star was wonderful, the moon like a young mother. The sky, 
dark blue, the" transparent night, the planets, the moderate west 
wind, the elastic temperature, the miracle of that great star, and 
the young and swelling moon swimming in the west, suffused the 
soul. Then I heard, slow and clear, the deliberate notes of a 
bugle come up out of the silence, sounding so good through the 
night's mystery, no hurry, but firm and faithful, floating along, 
rising, falling leisurely, with here and there a long-drawn note ; 
the bugle, well play'd, sounding tattoo, in one of the army hos- 
pitals near here, where the wounded (some of them personally 
so dear to me,) are lying in their cots, and many a sick boy come 
down to the war from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and 

the rest. 


March 6. — I have been up to look at the dance and supper- 
rooms, for the inauguration ball at the Patent office ; and I could 
not help thinking, what a different scene they presented to my 
view a while since, fill'd with a crowded mass of the worst 
wounded of the war, brought in from second Bull Run, Antietam, 
and Fredericksburgh. To-night, beautiful women, perfumes, the 
violins' sweetness, the polka and the waltz; then the amputation, 
the blue face, the groan, the glassy eye of the dying, the clotted 
rag, the odor of wounds and blood, and many a mother's son 
amid strangers, passing away untended there, (for the crowd of 
the badly hurt was great, and much for nurse to do, and much 
for surgeon.) 


I must mention a strange scene at the capitol, the hall of Rep- 
resentatives, the morning of Saturday last, (March 4th.) The 
day just dawn'd, but in half-darkness, everything dim, leaden, 
and soaking. In that dim light, the members nervous from long 
drawn duty, exhausted, some asleep, and many half asleep. The 
gas-light, mix'd with the dingy day-break, produced an un- 
earthly effect. The poor little sleepy, stumbling pages, the smell 
of the hall, the members with heads leaning on their desks, the 
sounds of the voices speaking, with unusual intonations — the 
general moral atmosphere also of the close of this important ses- 
sion — the strong hope that the war is approaching its close — the 
tantalizing dread lest the hope may be a false one — the grandeur 
of the hall itself, with its effect of vast shadows up toward the 
panels and spaces over the galleries — all made a mark'd combi- 


In the midst of this, with the suddenness of a thunderbolt, 
burst one of the most angry and crashing storms of rain and hail 
ever heard. It beat like a deluge on the heavy glass roof of the 
hall, and the wind literally howl'd and roar'd. For a moment, 
(and no wonder,) the nervous and sleeping Representatives were 
thrown into confusion. The slumberers awaked with fear, some 
started for the doors, some look'd up with blanch'd cheeks and 
lips to the roof, and the little pages began to cry ; it was a scene. 
But it was over almost as soon as the drowsied men were actually 
awake. They recover'd themselves ; the storm raged on, beat- 
ing, dashing, and with loud noises at times. But the House went 
ahead with its business then, I think, as calmly and with as much 
deliberation as at any time in its career. Perhaps the shock did 
it good. (One is not without impression, after all, amid these 
members of Congress, of both the Houses, that if the flat routine 
of their duties should ever be broken in upon by some great 
emergency involving real danger, and calling for first-class per- 
sonal qualities, those qualities would be found generally forth- 
coming, and from men not now credited with them.) 


March 27, 1865. — Sergeant Calvin F. Harlowe, company C, 
29th Massachusetts, 3d brigade, 1st division, Ninth corps — a 
mark'd sample of heroism and death, (some may say bravado, 
but I say heroism, of grandest, oldest order) — in the late attack 
by the rebel troops, and temporary capture by them, of fort 
Steadman, at night. The fort was surprised at dead of night. 
Suddenly awaken'd from their sleep, and rushing from their tents, 
Harlowe, with others, found himself in the hands of the secesh 
— they demanded his surrender — he answer'd, Never while I live. 
(Of course it was useless. The others surrender'd ; the odds 
were too great.) Again he was ask'd to yield, this time by a 
rebel captain. Though surrounded, and quite calm, he again 
refused, call'd sternly to his comrades to fight on, and himself 
attempted to do so. The rebel captain then shot him — but at 
the same instant he shot the captain. Both fell together mor- 
tally wounded. Harlowe died almost instantly. The rebels 
were driven out in a very short time. The body was buried next 
day, but soon taken up and sent home, (Plymouth county, Mass.) 
Harlowe was only 22 years of age — was a tall, slim, dark-hair'd, 
blue-eyed young man — had come out originally with the 29th ; 
and that is the way he met his death, after four years' campaign. 
He was in the Seven Days fight before Richmond, in second Bull 
Run, Antietam, first Fredericksburgh, Vicksburgh, Jackson, Wil- 
derness, and the campaigns following — was as good a soldier as 


ever wore the blue, and every old officer in the regiment will bear 
that testimony. Though so young, and in a common rank, he 
had a spirit as resolute and brave as any hero in the books, an- 
cient or modern — It was too great to say the words "I surren- 
der "—and so he died. (When I think of such things, knowing 
them well, all the vast and complicated events of the war, on 
which history dwells and makes its volumes, fall aside, and for 
the moment at any rate I see nothing but young Calvin Har- 
lowe's figure in the night, disdaining to surrender.) 

The war is over, but the hospitals are fuller than ever, from 
former and current cases. A large majority of the wounds are 
in the arms and legs. But there is every kind of wound, in every 
part of the body. I should say of the sick, from my observa- 
tion, that the prevailing maladies are typhoid fever and the camp 
fevers generally, diarrhoea, catarrhal affections and bronchitis, 
rheumatism and pneumonia. These forms of sickness lead ; all 
the rest follow. There are twice as many sick as there are wounded. 
The deaths range from seven to ten per cent, of those under 


April 16, '65. — I find in my notes of the time, this passage on 
the death of Abraham Lincoln: He leaves for America's history 
and biography, so far, not only its most dramatic reminiscence — 
he leaves, in my opinion, the greatest, best, most characteristic, 
artistic, moral personality. Not but that he had faults, and 
show'd them in the Presidency ; but honesty, goodness, shrewd- 
ness, conscience, and (a new virtue, unknown to other lands, and 
hardly yet really known here, but the foundation and tie of all, 
as the future will grandly develop,) Unionism, in its truest and 
amplest sense, form'd the hard-pan of his character. These he 
seal'd with his life. The tragic splendor of his death, purging, 
illuminating all, throws round his form, his head, an aureole that 
will remain and will grow brighter through time, while history 
lives, and love of country lasts. By many has this Union been 
help'd ; but if one name, one man, must be pick'd out, he, most 
of all, is the conservator of it, to the future. He was assassi- 
nated — but the Union is not assassinated — ga ira ! One falls, 
and another falls. The soldier drops, sinks like a wave — but the 
ranks of the ocean eternally press on. Death does its work, ob- 

* In the U. S. Surgeon-General's office since, there is a formal record and 
treatment of 253,142 cases of wounds by government surgeons. What must 
have been the number unofficial, indirect — to say nothing of the Southern 
armies ? 



literates a hundred, a thousand — President, general, captain, pri- 
vate — but the Nation is immortal. 

When Sherman's armies, (long after they left Atlanta,) were 
marching through South and North Carolina — after leaving Sa- 
vannah, the news of Lee's capitulation having been receiv'd — 
the men never mov'd a mile without from some part of the line 
sending up continued, inspiriting shouts. At intervals all day 
long sounded out the wild music of those peculiar army cries. 
They would be commenc'd by one regiment or brigade, imme- 
diately taken up by others, and at length whole corps and armies 
would join in these wild triumphant choruses. It was one of the 
characteristic expressions of the western troops, and became a 
habit, serving as a relief and outlet to the men — a vent for their 
feelings of victory, returning peace, &c. Morning, noon, and 
afternoon, spontaneous, for occasion or without occasion, these 
huge, strange cries, differing from any other, echoing through 
the open air for many a mile, expressing youth, joy, wildness, 
irrepressible strength, and the ideas of advance and conquest, 
sounded along the swamps and uplands of the South, floating to 
the skies. (* There never were men that kept in better spirits in 
danger or defeat — what then could they do in victory ?' — said 
one of the 15th corps to me, afterwards.) This exuberance con- 
tinued till the armies arrived at Raleigh. There the news of the 
President's murder was receiv'd. Then no more shouts or yells, 
for a week. All the marching was comparatively muffled. It 
was very significant — hardly a loud word or laugh in many of the 
regiments. A hush and silence pervaded all. 

Probably the reader has seen physiognomies (often old farmers, 
sea-captains, and such) that, behind their homeliness, or even 
ugliness, held superior points so subtle, yet so palpable, making 
the real life of their faces almost as impossible to depict as a wild 
perfume or fruit-taste, or a passionate tone of the living voice — 
and such was Lincoln's face, the peculiar color, the lines of it, 
the eyes, mouth, expression. Of technical beauty it had noth- 
ing — but to the eye of a great artist it furnished a rare study, a 
feast and fascination. The current portraits are all failures — 
most of them caricatures. 

The releas'd prisoners of war are now coming up from the 
southern prisons. I have seen a number of them. The sight is 
worse than any sight of battle-fields, or any collection of wounded, 


even the bloodiest. There was, (as a sample,) one large boat 
load, of several hundreds, brought about the 25th, to Annapo- 
lis ; and out of the whole number only three individuals were 
able to walk from the boat. The rest were carried ashore and 
laid down in one place or another. Can those be men — those 
little livid brown, ash-streak'd, monkey-looking dwarfs? — are 
they really not mummied, dwindled corpses? They lay there, 
most of them, quite still, but with a horrible look in their eyes 
and skinny lips (often with not enough flesh on the lips to cover 
their teeth.) Probably no more appalling sight was ever seen on 
this earth. (There are deeds, crimes, that may be forgiven ; but 
this is not among them. It steeps its perpetrators in blackest, 
escapeless, endless damnation. Over 50,000 have been compell'd 
to die the death of starvation — reader, did you ever try to realize 
what starvation actually is ? — in those prisons — and in a land of 
plenty.) An indescribable meanness, tyranny, aggravating 
course of insults, almost incredible — was evidently the rule of 
treatment through all the southern military prisons. The dead 
there are not to be pitied as much as some of the living that come 
from there — if they. can be call'd living — many of them are men- 
tally imbecile, and will never recuperate.* 

* From a review of " Andersonville, A Story of Southern Military Prisons," 
published serially in the " Toledo Blade," in 1&7Q, and afterwards in book form. 

" There is a deep fascination in the subject of Andersonville — for that Gol- 
gotha, in which lie the whitening bones of 13,000 gallant young men, repre- 
sents the dearest and costliest sacrifice of the war for the preservation of our 
national unity. It is a type, too, of its class. Its more than hundred heca- 
tombs of dead represent several times that number of their brethren, for 
whom the prison gates of Belle Isle, Danville, Salisbury, Florence, Columbia, 
and Cahaba open'd only in eternity. There are few families in the North 
who have not at least one dear relative or friend among these 60,000 whose 
sad fortune it was to end their service for the Union by lying down and dying 
for it in a southern prison pen. The manner of their death, the horrors that 
cluster'd thickly around every moment of their existence, the loyal, unfalter- 
ing steadfastness with which they endured all that fate had brought them, has 
never been adequately told. It was not with them as with their comrades in 
the field, whose every act was perform'd in the presence of those whose duty 
it was to observe such matters and report them to the world. Hidden from 
the view of their friends in the north by the impenetrable veil which the mili- 
tary operations of the rebels drew around the so-called confederacy, the people 
knew next to nothing of their career or their sufferings. Thousands died there 
less heeded even than the hundreds who perish'd on the battle-field. Grant did 
not lose as many men kill'd outright, in the terrible campaign from the Wil- 
derness to the James river — 43 days of desperate fighting — as died in July and 
August at Andersonville. Nearly twice as many died in that prison as fell 
from the day that Grant cross'd the Rapidan, till he settled down in the 
trenches before Petersburg. More than four times as many Union dead lie 
under the solemn soughing pines about that forlorn little village in southern 
Georgia, than mark the course of Sherman from Chattanooga to Atlanta. The 


Frank H. Irwin, company E, 93d Pennsylvania — died May 1, 
'65 — My letter to his mother. — Dear madam : No doubt you and 
Frank's friends have heard the sad fact of his death in hospital 
here, through his uncle, or the lady from Baltimore, who took 
his things. (I have not seem them, only heard of them visiting 
Frank.) I will write you a few lines — as a casual friend that sat 
by his death-bed. Your son, corporal Frank H. Irwin, was 
wounded near fort Fisher, Virginia, March 25th, 1865 — the wound 
was in the left knee, pretty bad. He was sent up to Washing- 
ton, was receiv'd in ward C, Armory-square hospital, March 28th — 
the wound became worse, and on the 4th of April the leg was 
amputated a little above the knee — the operation was perform'd 
by Dr. Bliss, one of the best surgeons in the army — he did the 
whole operation himself — there was a good deal of bad matter 
gather'd — the bullet was found in the knee. For a couple of 
weeks afterwards he was doing pretty well. I visited and sat by 
him frequently, as he was fond of having me. The last ten or 

nation stands aghast at the expenditure of life which attended the two bloody 
campaigns of 1864, which virtually crush'd the confederacy, but no one re- 
members that more Union soldiers died in the rear of the rebel lines than 
were kill'd in the front of them. The great military events which stamp'd 
out the rebellion drew attention away from the sad drama which starvation 
and disease play' d in those gloomy pens in the far recesses of sombre southern 

From a letter of " Johnny Bouquet," in N. Y. Tribune, March 27, '81. 

"I visited at Salisbury, N. C, the prison pen or the site of it, from which 
nearly 12,000 victims of southern politicians were buried, being confined in a 
pen without shelter, exposed to all the elements could do, to all the disease 
herding animals together could create, and to all the starvation and cruelty an 
incompetent and intense caitiff government could accomplish. From the con- 
versation and almost from the recollection of the northern people this place 
has dropp'd, but not so in the gossip of the Salisbury people, nearly all of 
whom say that the half was never told ; that such was the nature of habitual 
outrage here that when Federal prisoners escaped the townspeople harbor'd 
them in their barns, afraid the vengeance of God would fall on them, to de- 
liver even their enemies back to such cruelty. Said one old man at the Boy- 
den House, who join'd in the conversation one evening: 'There were often 
men buried out of that prison pen still alive. I have the testimony of a sur- 
geon that he has seen them pull'd out of the dead cart with their eyes open 
and taking notice, but too weak to lift a finger. There was not the least ex- 
cuse for such treatment, as the confederate government had seized every saw- 
mill in the region, and could just as well have put up shelter for these pris- 
oners as not, wood being plentiful here. It will be h-ard to make any honest 
man in Salisbury say that there was the slightest necessity for those prisoners 
having to live in old tents, caves and holes half-full of water. Representa- 
tions were made to the Davis government against the officers in charge of it, 
but no attention was paid to them. Promotion was the punishment for cruelty 
there. The inmates were skeletons. Hell could have no terrors for any man 
who died there, except the inhuman keepers.' " 


twelve days of April I saw that his case was critical. He pre- 
viously had some fever, with cold spells. The last week in April 
he was much of the time flighty — but always mild and gentle. 
He died first of May. The actual cause of death was pyaemia, 
(the absorption of the matter in the system instead of its dis- 
charge.) Frank, as far as I saw, had everything requisite in sur- 
gical treatment, nursing, &c. He had watches much of the time. 
He was so good and well-behaved and affectionate, I myself liked 
him very much. I was in the habit of coming in afternoons and 
sitting by him, and soothing him, and he liked to have me — liked 
to put his arm out and lay his hand on my knee — would keep it 
so a long while. Toward the last he was more restless and flighty 
at night — often fancied himself with his regiment — by his talk 
sometimes seem'd as if his feelings were hurt by being blamed by 
his officers for something he was entirely innocent of — said, "I 
never in my life was thought capable of such a thing, and never 
was." At other times he would fancy himself talking as it seem'd 
to children or such like, his relatives I suppose, and giving them 
good advice ; would talk to them a long while. All the time he 
was out of his head not one single bad word or idea escaped him. 
It was remark' d that many a man's conversation in his senses 
was not half as good as Frank's delirium. He seem'd quite 
willing to die — he had become very weak and had suffer'd a good 
deal, and was perfectly resign'd, poor boy. I do not know his 
past life, but I feel as if it must have been good. At any rate 
what I saw of him here, under the most trying circumstances, 
with a painful wound, and among strangers, I can say that he be- 
haved so brave, so composed, and so sweet and affectionate, it 
could not be surpass'd. And now like many other noble and 
good men, after serving his country as a soldier, he has yielded 
up his young life at the very outset in her service. Such things 
are gloomy — yet there is a text, " God doeth all things well " — 
the meaning of which, after due time, appears to the soul. 

I thought perhaps a few words, though from a stranger, about 
your son, from one who was with him at the last, might be worth 
while — for I loved the young man, though I but saw him imme- 
diately to lose him. I am merely a friend visiting the hospitals 
occasionally to cheer the wounded and sick. W. W. 


May y. — Sunday. — To-day as I was walking a mile or two south 
of Alexandria, I fell in with several large squads of the returning 
Western army, {Sherman' s men as they call'd themselves) about 
a thousand in all, the largest portion of them half sick, some 
convalescents, on their way to a hospital camp. * These fragmen- 



tary excerpts, with the unmistakable Western physiognomy and 
idioms, crawling along slowly — after a great campaign, blown 
this way, as it were, out of their latitude — I mark'd with curi- 
osity, and talk'd with off and on for over an hour. Here and 
there was one very sick; but all were able to walk, except some 
of the last, who had given out, and were seated on the ground, 
faint and despondent. These I tried to cheer, told them the 
camp they were to reach was only a little way further over the 
hill, and so got them up and started, accompanying some of the 
worst a little way, and helping them, or putting them under the 
support of stronger comrades. 

May 21. — Saw General Sheridan and his cavalry to-day ; a 
strong, attractive sight ; the men were mostly young, (a few mid- 
dle-aged,) superb-looking fellows, brown, spare, keen, with well- 
worn clothing, many with pieces of water-proof cloth around 
their shoulders, hanging down. They dash'd along pretty fast, 
in wide close ranks, all spatter'd with mud ; no holiday soldiers; 
brigade after brigade. I could have watch' d for a week. Sheri- 
dan stood on a balcony, under a big tree, coolly smoking a cigar. 
His looks and manner impress' d me favorably. 

May 22. — Have been taking a walk along Pennsylvania avenue 
and Seventh street north. The city is full of soldiers, running 
around loose. Officers everywhere, of all grades. All have the 
weather-beaten look of practical service. It is a sight I never 
tire of. All the armies are now here (or portions of them,) for 
to-morrow's review. You see them swarming like bees every- 


For two days now the broad spaces of Pennsylvania avenue 
along to Treasury hill, and so by detour around to the Presi- 
dent's house, and so up to Georgetown, and across the aque- 
duct bridge, have been alive with a magnificent sight, the return- 
ing armies. In their wide ranks stretching clear across the 
Avenue, I watch them march or ride along, at a brisk pace, 
through two whole days — infantry, cavalry, artillery — some 200,- 
000 men. Some days afterwards one or two other corps ; and 
then, still afterwards, a good part of Sherman's immense army, 
brought up from Charleston, Savannah, &c. 


May 26-7. — The streets, the public buildings and grounds of 
Washington, still swarm with soldiers from Illinois, Indiana, 
Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, and all the Western States. I am contin- 
ually meeting and talking with them. They often speak to me 
first, and always show great sociability, and glad to have a good 



interchange of chat. These Western soldiers are more slow in 
their movements, and in their intellectual quality also ; have no 
extreme alertness. They are larger in size, have a more serious 
physiognomy, are continually looking at you as they pass in the 
street. They are largely animal, and handsomely so. During 
the war I have been at times with the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, 
Seventeenth, and Twentieth Corps. I always feel drawn toward 
the men, and like their personal contact when we are crowded 
close together, as frequently these days in the street-cars. They 
all think the world of General Sherman ; call him " old Bill," 
or sometimes " uncle Billy." 


May 28. — As I sat by the bedside of a sick Michigan soldier 
in hospital to-day, a convalescent from the adjoining bed rose 
and came to me, and presently we began talking, He was a 
middle-aged man, belonged to the 2d Virginia regiment, but 
lived in Racine, Ohio, and had a family there. He spoke of 
President Lincoln, and said : " The war is over, and many are 
lost. And now we have lost the best, the fairest, the truest man 
in America. Take him altogether, he was the best man this 
country ever produced. It was quite a while I thought very dif- 
ferent; but some time before the murder, that's the way I have 
seen it." There was deep earnestness in the soldier. (I found 
upon further talk he had known Mr. Lincoln personally, and 
quite closely, years before.) He was a veteran ; was now in the 
fifth year of his service ; was a cavalry man, and had been in 
a good deal of hard fighting. 


May 28-9. — I staid to-night a long time by the bedside of a 
new patient, a young Baltimorean, aged about 19 years, W. S. P., 
(2d Maryland, southern,) very feeble, right leg amputated, can't 
sleep hardly at all — has taken a great deal of morphine, which, 
as usual, is costing more than it comes to. Evidently very in- 
telligent and well bred — very affectionate — held on to my hand, 
and put it by his face, not willing to let me leave. As I was 
lingering, soothing him in his pain, he says to me suddenly, " I 
hardly think you know who I am — I don't wish to impose upon 
you — I am a rebel soldier. ' ' I said I did not know that, but it made 
no difference. Visiting him daily for about two weeks after that, 
while he lived, (death had mark'd him, and he was quite alone,) 
I loved him much, always kiss'd him, and he did me. In an ad- 
joining ward I found his brother, an officer of rank, a Union sol- 
dier, a brave and religious man, (Col. Clifton K. Prentiss, sixth 


Maryland infantry, Sixth corps, wounded in one of the engage- 
ments at Petersburgh, April 2 — linger'd, suffer'd much, died in 
Brooklyn, Aug. 20, '65.) It was in the same battle both were 
hit. One was a strong Unionist, the other Secesh ; both fought 
on their respective sides, both badly wounded, and both brought 
together here after a separation of four years. Each died for his 



May 31. — James H. Williams, aged 21, 3d Virginia cavalry. — 
About as mark'd a case of a strong man brought low by a com- 
plication of diseases, (laryngitis, fever, debility and diarrhoea,) 
as I have ever seen — has superb physique, remains swarthy yet, 
and flushed and red with fever — is altogether flighty — flesh of his 
great breast and arms tremulous, and pulse pounding away with 
treble quickness — lies a good deal of the time in a partial sleep, 
but with low muttering and groans — a sleep in which there is no 
rest. Powerful as he is, and so young, he will not be able to stand 
many more days of the strain and sapping heat of yesterday 
and to-day. His throat is in a bad way, tongue and lips parch'd. 
When I ask him how he feels, he is able just to articulate, " I 
feel pretty bad yet, old man," and looks at me with his great 
bright eyes. Father, John Williams, Millensport, Ohio. 

June p-10. — I have been sitting late to-night by the bedside of 
a wounded captain, a special friend of mine, lying with a painful 
fracture of left leg in one of the hospitals, in a large ward par- 
tially vacant. The lights were put out, all but a little candle, far 
from where I sat. The full moon shone in through the windows, 
making long, slanting silvery patches on the floor. All was still, 
my friend too was silent, but could not sleep ; so I sat there by 
him, slowly wafting the fan, and occupied with the musings that 
arose out of the scene, the long shadowy ward, the beautiful 
ghostly moonlight on the floor, the white beds, here and there 
an occupant with huddled form, the bed-clothes thrown off. The 
hospitals have a number of cases of sun-stroke and exhaustion 
by heat, from the late reviews. There are many such from the 
Sixth corps, from the hot parade of day before yesterday. (Some 
of these shows cost the lives of scores of men.) 

Sunday, Sep. 10. — Visited Douglas and Stanton hospitals. They 
are quite full. Many of the cases are bad ones, lingering wounds, 
and old sickness. There is a more than usual look of despair 
on the countenances of many of the men ; hope has left them. 
I went through the wards, talking as usual. There are several 
here from the confederate army whom I had seen in other hos- 
pitals, and they recognized me. Two were in a dying con- 


In one of the hospital tents for special cases, as I sat to-day 
tending a new amputation, I heard a couple of neighboring sol- 
diers talking to each other from their cots. One down with fever, 
but improving, had come up belated from Charleston not long 
before. The other was what we now call an " old veteran," 
(i. e., he was a Connecticut youth, probably of less than the age 
of twenty-five years, the four last of which he had spent in 
active service in the war in all parts of the country.) The two 
were chatting of one thing and another. The fever soldier spoke 
of John C. Calhoun's monument, which he had seen, and was 
describing it. The veteran said : "I have seen Calhoun's monu- 
ment. That you saw is not the real monument. But I have seen 
it. It. is the desolated, ruined south; nearly the whole genera- 
tion of young men between seventeen and thirty destroyed or 
maim'd; all the old families used up — the rich impoverish'd, the 
plantations cover'd with weeds, the slaves unloos'd and become 
the masters, and the name of southerner blacken'd with every 
shame — all that is Calhoun's real monument." 


October j. — There are two army hospitals now remaining. I 
went to the largest of these (Douglas) and spent the afternoon 
and evening. There are many sad cases, old wounds, incurable 
sickness, and some of the wounded from the March and April 
battles before Richmond. Few realize how sharp and bloody 
those closing battles were. Our men exposed themselves more 
than usual ; press'd ahead without urging. Then the southern- 
ers fought with extra desperation. Both sides knew that with 
the successful chasing of the rebel cabal from Richmond, and the 
occupation of that city by the national troops, the game was up. 
The dead and wounded were unusually many. Of the wounded 
the last lingering driblets have been brought to hospital here. I 
find many rebel wounded here, and have been extra busy to day 
'tending to the worst cases of them with the rest. 

Oct., Nov. and Dec, '65 — Sundays. — Every Sunday of these 
months visited Harewood hospital out in the woods, pleasant and 
recluse, some two and a half or three miles north of the capitol. 
The situation is healthy, with broken ground, grassy slopes and 
patches of oak woods, the trees large and fine. It was one of 
the most extensive of the hospitals, now reduced to four or five 
partially occupied wards, the numerous others being vacant. In 
November, this became the last military hospital kept up by the 
government, all the others being closed. Cases of the worst and 
most incurable wounds, obstinate illness, and of poor fellows who 
have no homes to go to, are found here. 


Dec. 10 — Sunday. — Again spending a good part of the day at 
Harewood. I write this about an hour before sundown. I have 
walk'd out for a few minutes to the edge of the woods to soothe 
myself with the hour and scene. It is a glorious, warm, golden- 
sunny, still afternoon. The only noise is from a crowd of caw- 
ing crows, on some trees three hundred yards distant. Clusters 
of gnats swimming and dancing in the air in all directions. The 
oak leaves are thick under the bare trees, and give a strong and 
delicious perfume. Inside the wards everything is gloomy. 
Death is there. As I enter'd, I was confronted by it the first 
thing; a corpse of a poor soldier, just dead, of typhoid fever. 
The attendants had just straighten'd the limbs, put coppers on 
the eyes, and were laying it out. 

The roads. — A great recreation, the past three years, has been 
in taking long walks out from Washington, five, seven, perhaps 
ten miles and back ; generally with my friend Peter Doyle, who 
is as fond of it as I am. Fine moonlight nights, over the perfect 
military roads, hard and smooth — or Sundays — we had these de- 
lightful walks, never to be forgotten. The roads connecting 
Washington and the numerous forts around the city, made one 
useful result, at any rate, out of the war. 


Even the typical soldiers I have been personally intimate with, 
— it seems to me if I were to make a list of them it would be like 
a city directory. Some few only have I mention'd in the fore- 
going pages — most are dead — a few yet living. There is Reuben 
Farwell, of Michigan, (little ' Mitch ;') Benton H. Wilson, color- 
bearer, 185th New York; Wm. Stansberry; Manvill Winterstein, 
Ohio; Bethuel Smith; Capt. Simms, of 51st New York, (kill'd 
at Petersburgh mine explosion,) Capt. Sam. Pooley and Lieut. 
Fred. McReady, same reg't. Also, same reg't., my brother, 
George W. Whitman — in active service all through, four years, 
re-enlisting twice — was promoted, step by step, (several times 
immediately after battles,) lieutenant, captain, major and lieut. 
colonel — was in the actions at Roanoke, Newbern, 2d Bull Run, 
Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburgh, Vicks- 
burgh, Jackson, the bloody conflicts of the Wilderness, and at 
Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and afterwards around Petersburgh ; 
at one of these latter was taken prisoner, and pass'd four or five 
months in secesh military prisons, narrowly escaping with life, 
from a severe fever, from starvation and half-nakedness in the 
winter. (What a history that 51st New York had ! Went out 
early — march' d, fought everywhere — was in storms at sea, nearly 
wreck' d — storm' d forts — tramp' d hither and yon in Virginia, 



night and day, summer of '62 — afterwards Kentucky and Missis- 
sippi — re-enlisted — was in all the engagements and campaigns, as 
above.) I strengthen and comfort myself much with the cer- 
tainty that the capacity for just such regiments, (hundreds, thou- 
sands of them) is inexhaustible in the United States, and that 
there isn't a county nor a township in the republic — nor a street 
in any city — but could turn out, and, on occasion, would turn 
out, lots of just such typical soldiers, whenever wanted. 

As I have look'd over the proof-sheets of the preceding pages, 
I have once or twice fear'd that my diary would prove, at best, 
but a batch of convulsively written reminiscences. Well, be it 
so. They are but parts of the actual distraction, heat, smoke 
and excitement of those times. The war itself, with the temper 
of society preceding it, can indeed be best described by that very 
word convulsiveness. 

During those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made 
over six hundred visits or tours, and went, as I estimate, counting 
all, among from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the 
wounded and sick, as sustainer of spirit and body in some de- 
gree, in time of need. These visits varied from an hour or two, 
to all day or night ; for with dear or critical cases I generally 
watch'd all night. Sometimes I took up my quarters in the hos- 
pital, and slept or watch'd there several nights in succession. 
Those three years I consider the greatest privilege and satisfac- 
tion, (with all their feverish excitements and physical depriva- 
tions and lamentable sights,) and, of course, the most profound 
lesson of my life. I can say that in my ministerings I compre- 
hended all, whoever came in my way, northern or southern, and 
slighted none. It arous'd and brought out and decided un- 
dream'd-of depths of emotion. It has given me my most fervent 
views of the true ensemble and extent of the States. While I was 
with wounded and sick in thousands of cases from the New Eng- 
land States, and from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, 
and from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and all 
the Western States, I was with more or less from all the States, 
North and South, without exception. I was with many from the 
border States, especially from Maryland and Virginia, and found, 
during those lurid years 1862-63, far more Union southerners, 
especially Tennesseans, than is supposed. I was with many rebel 
officers and men among our wounded, and gave them always what 
I had, and tried to cheer them the same as any. I was among 
the army teamsters considerably, and, indeed, always found my- 


self drawn to them. Among the black soldiers, wounded or sick, 
and in the contraband camps, I also took my way whenever in 
their neighborhood, and did what I could for them. 


The dead in this war — there they lie, strewing the fields and 
woods and valleys and battle-fields of the south — Virginia, the 
Peninsula — Malvern hill and Fair Oaks — the banks of the Chick- 
ahominy — the terraces of Fredericksburgh — Antietam bridge — 
the grisly ravines of Manassas — the bloody promenade of the 
Wilderness — the varieties of the strayed dead, (the estimate of 
the War department is 25,000 national soldiers kill'd in battle 
and never buried at all, 5,000 drown'd — 15,000 inhumed by 
strangers, or on the march in haste, in hitherto unfound locali- 
ties — 2,000 graves cover'd by sand and mud by Mississippi 
freshets, 3,000 carried away by caving-in of banks, &c.,) — Get- 
tysburgh, the West, Southwest — Vicksburgh — Chattanooga — the 
trenches of Petersburgh — the numberless battles, camps, hospitals 
everywhere — the crop reap'd by the mighty reapers, typhoid, 
dysentery, inflammations — and blackest and loathesomest of all, 
the dead and living burial-pits, the prison-pens of Andersonville, 
Salisbury, Belle-Isle, &c, (not Dante's pictured hell and all its 
woes, its degradations, filthy torments, excell'd those prisons) — 
the dead, the dead, the dead — our dead — or South or North, ours 
all, (all, all, all, finally dear to me) — or East or West — Atlantic 
coast or Mississippi valley — somewhere theycrawl'd to die, alone, 
in bushes, low gullies, or on the sides of hills — (there, in se- 
cluded spots, their skeletons, bleach'd bones, tufts of hair, but- 
tons, fragments of clothing, are occasionally found yet) — our 
young men once so handsome and so joyous, taken from us — the 
son from the mother, the husband from the wife, the dear friend 
from the dear friend — the clusters of camp graves, in Georgia, 
the Carolinas, and in Tennessee — the single graves left in the 
woods or by the road-side, (hundreds, thousands, obliterated) — 
the corpses floated down the rivers, and caught and lodged, 
(dozens, scores, floated down the upper Potomac, after the 
cavalry engagements, the pursuit of Lee, following Gettysburgh) 
— some lie at the bottom of the sea — the general million, and 
the special cemeteries in almost all the States — the infinite dead 
— (the land entire saturated, perfumed with their impalpable 
ashes' exhalation in Nature's chemistry distill'd, and shall be so 
forever, in every future grain of wheat and ear of corn, and 
every flower that grows, and every breath we draw) — not only 
Northern dead leavening Southern soil — thousands, aye tens of 
thousands, of Southerners, crumble to-day in Northern earth. 


And everywhere among these countless graves — everywhere in 
the many soldier Cemeteries of the Nation, (there are now, I be- 
lieve, over seventy of them) — as at the time in the vast trenches, 
the depositories of slain, Northern and Southern, after the great 
battles — not only where the scathing trail passed those years, but 
radiating since in all the peaceful quarters of the land — we see, 
and ages yet may see, on monuments and gravestones, singly or 
in masses, to thousands or tens of thousands, the significant 
word Unknown. 

(In some of the cemeteries nearly al/ the dead are unknown. 
At Salisbury, N. C, for instance, the known are only 85, while 
the unknown are 12,027, an d 11,700 of these are buried in 
trenches. A national monument has been put up here, by order 
of Congress, to mark the spot — but what visible, material monu- 
ment can ever fittingly commemorate that spot ?) 


And so good-bye to the war. I know not how it may have 
been, or may be, to others — to me the main interest I found, (and 
still, on recollection, find,) in the rank and file of the armies, 
both sides, and in those specimens amid the hospitals, and even 
the dead on the field. To me the points illustrating the latent 
personal character and eligibilities of these States, in the two or 
three millions of American young and middle-aged men, North 
and South, embodied in those armies — and especially the one- 
third or one-fourth of their number, stricken by wounds or dis- 
ease at some time in the course of the contest — were of more 
significance even than the political interests involved. (As so 
much of a race depends on how it faces death, and how it stands 
personal anguish and sickness. As, in the glints of emotions 
under emergencies, and the indirect traits and asides in Plutarch, 
we get far profounder clues to the antique world than all its more 
formal history.) 

Future years will never know the seething hell and the black 
infernal background of countless minor scenes and interiors, (not 
the official surface-courteousness of the Generals, not the few great 
battles) of the Secession war ; and it is best they should not — the 
real war will never get in the books. In the mushy influences of 
current times, too, the fervid atmosphere and typical events of 
those years are in danger of being totally forgotten. I have at 
night watch'd by the side of a sick man in the hospital, one who 
could not live many hours. I have seen his eyes flash and burn 
as he raised himself and recurr'd to the cruelties on his surren- 
der' d brother, and mutilations of the corpse afterward. (See, in 
the preceding pages, the incident at Upperville— the seventeen 


kill'd as in the description, were left there on the ground. After 
they dropt dead, no one touch'd them — all were made sure of, 
however. The carcasses were left for the citzens to bury or not, 
as they chose.) 

Such was the war. It was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its 
interior history will not only never be written*— its practicality, 
minutiae of deeds and passions, will never be even suggested. The 
actual soldier of 1862-65, North and South, with all his ways, 
his incredible dauntlessness, habits, practices, tastes, language, 
his fierce friendship, his appetite, rankness, his superb strength 
and animality, lawless gait, and a hundred unnamed lights and 
shades of camp, I say, will never be written — perhaps must not 
and should not be. 

The preceding notes may furnish a few stray glimpses into that 
life, and into those lurid interiors, never to be fully convey'd to 
the future. The hospital part of the drama from '61 to '65, de- 
serves indeed to be recorded. Of that many-threaded drama, 
with its sudden and strange surprises, its confounding of prophe- 
cies, its moments of despair, the dread of foreign interference, 
the interminable campaigns, the bloody battles, the mighty and 
cumbrous and green armies, the drafts and bounties — the im- 
mense money expenditure, like a heavy-pouring constant rain — 
with, over the whole land, the last three years of the struggle, 
an unending, universal mourning-wail of women, parents, or- 
phans — the marrow of the tragedy concentrated in those Army 
Hospitals — (it seem'd sometimes as if the whole interest of the 
land, North and South, was one vast central hospital, and all the 
rest of the affair but flanges) — those forming the untold and un- 
written history of the war — infinitely greater (like life's) than 
the few scraps and distortions that are ever told or written. 
Think how much, and of importance, will be — how much, civic 
and military, has already been — buried in the grave, in eternal 


Several years now elapse before I resume my diary. I con- 
tinued at Washington working in the Attorney-General's depart- 
ment through '66 and '67, and some time afterward. In Feb- 
ruary '73 I was stricken down by paralysis, gave up my desk, 
and migrated to Camden, New Jersey, where I lived during '74 
and '75, quite unwell — but after that began to grow better; com- 
menc'd going for weeks at a time, even for months, down in the 
country, to a charmingly recluse and rural spot along Timber 
creek, twelve or thirteen miles from where it enters the Delaware 
river. Domicil'd at the farm-house of my friends, the Staffords, 
near by, I lived half the time along this creek and its adjacent 


fields and lanes. And it is to my life here that I, perhaps, owe 
partial recovery (a sort of second wind, or semi-renewal of the 
lease of life) from the prostration of 1874-' 75. If the notes of 
that outdoor life could only prove as glowing to you, reader dear, 
as the experience itself was to me. Doubtless in the course of 
the following, the fact of invalidism will crop out, (I call my- 
self a half-Paralytic these days, and reverently bless the Lord 
it is no worse,) between some of the lines — but I get my share 
of fun and healthy hours, and shall try to indicate them. (The 
trick is, I find, to tone your wants and tastes low down enough, 
and make much of negatives, and of mere daylight and the 
skies. ^ 


1876, ^77. — I find the woods in mid-May and early June my 
best places for composition.* Seated on logs or stumps there, 
or resting on rails, nearly all the following memoranda have been 
jotted down. Wherever I go, indeed, winter or summer, city or 
country, alone at home or traveling, I must take notes — (the 
ruling passion strong in age and disablement, and even the ap- 
proach of — but I must not say it yet.) Then underneath the follow- 
ing excerpta — crossing the fs and dotting the fs of certain mod- 
erate movements of late years — I am fain to fancy the founda- 
tions of quite a lesson learn'd. After you have exhausted what 
there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have 
found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — 
what remains? Nature remains ; to bring out from their torpid 
recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the 
trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars 
of heaven by night. We will begin from these convictions. 
Literature flies so high and is so hotly spiced, that our notes may 
seem hardly more than breaths of common air, or draughts of 
water to drink. But that is part of our lesson. 

Dear, soothing, healthy, restoration-hours — after three confin- 
ing years of paralysis — after the long strain of the war, and its 
wounds and death. 

* Without apology for the abrupt change of field and atmosphere — after 
■what I have put in the preceding fifty or sixty pages — temporary episodes, 
thank heaven! — I restore my book to the bracing and buoyant equilibrium of 
concrete outdoor Nature, the only permanent reliance for sanity of book or 
human life. 

Who knows, (I have it in my fancy, my ambition,) but the pages now en- 
suing may carry ray of sun, or smell of grass or corn, or call of bird, or gleam 
of stars by night, or snow-flakes falling fresh and mystic, to denizen of heated 
city house, or tired workman or workwoman ? — or may-be in sick-room or 
prison — to serve as cooling breeze, or Nature's aroma, to some fever'd mouth 
or latent pulse. 


As every man has his hobby-liking, mine is for a real farm-lane 
fenced by old chestnut-rails gray-green with dabs of moss and 
lichen, copious weeds and briers growing in spots athwart the 
heaps of stray-pick' d stones at the fence bases — irregular paths 
worn between, and horse and cow tracks — all characteristic ac- 
companiments marking and scenting the neighborhood in their 
seasons — apple-tree blossoms in forward April — pigs, poultry, a 
field of August buckwheat, and in another the long flapping tas- 
sels of maize — and so to the pond, the expansion of the creek, 
the secluded-beautiful, with young and old trees, and such re- 
cesses and vistas. 


So, still sauntering on, to the spring under the willows — musi- 
cal as soft clinking glasses — pouring a sizeable stream, thick as 
my neck, pure and clear, out from its vent where the bank arches 
over like a great brown shaggy eyebrow or mouth-roof — gurg- 
ling, gurgling ceaselessly — meaning, saying something, of course 
(if one could only translate it) — always gurgling there, the whole 
year through — never giving out — oceans of mint, blackberries in 
summer — choice of light and shade — : just the place for my July 
sun-baths and water-baths too — but mainly the inimitable soft 
sound-gurgles of it, as I sit there hot afternoons. How they and 
all grow into me, day after day — everything in keeping — the 
wild, just-palpable perfume, and the dapple of leaf-shadows, and 
all the natural-medicinal, elemental-moral influences of the spot. 

Babble on, O brook, with that utterance of thine ! I too will 
express what I have gather'd in my days and progress, native, sub- 
terranean, past — and now thee. Spin and wind thy way — I with 
thee, a little while, at any rate. As I haunt thee so often, sea- 
son by season, thou knowest reckest not me, (yet why be so cer- 
tain? who can tell?) — but I will learn from thee, and dwell on 
thee — receive, copy, print from thee. 

Away then to loosen, to unstring the divine bow, so tense, so 
long. Away, from curtain , carpet, sofa, book — from " society ' ' — 
from city house, street, and modern improvements and luxuries — 
away to the primitive winding, aforementioned wooded creek, 
with its untrimm'd bushes and turfy banks — away from ligatures, 
tight boots, buttons, and the whole cast-iron civilizee life — from 
entourage of artificial store, machine, studio, office, parlor — from 
tailordom and fashion's clothes — from any clothes, perhaps, for 
the nonce, the summer heats advancing, there in those watery, 
shaded solitudes. Away, thou soul, (let me pick thee out singly, 



reader dear, and talk in perfect freedom, negligently, confiden- 
tially,) for one day and night at least, returning to the naked 
source-life of us all — to the breast of the great silent savage 
all-acceptive Mother. Alas ! how many of us are so sodden — 
how many have wander'd so far away, that return is almost im- 

But to my jottings, taking them as they come, from the heap, 
without particular selection. There is little consecutiveness in 
dates. They run any time within nearly five or six years. Each 
was carelessly pencilled in the open air, at the time and place. 
The printers will learn this to some vexation perhaps, as much 
of their copy is from those hastily-written first notes. 

Did you ever chance to hear the midnight flight of birds pass- 
ing through the air and darkness overhead, in countless armies, 
changing their early or late summer habitat ? It is something not 
to be forgotten. A friend called me up just after 12 last night 
to mark the peculiar noise of unusually immense flocks migrating 
north (rather late this year.) In the silence, shadow and deli- 
cious odor of the hour, (the natural perfume belonging to the night 
alone,) I thought it rare music. You could hear the character- 
istic motion — once or twice "the rush of mighty wings," but 
oftener a velvety rustle, long drawn out — sometimes quite near — 
with continual calls and chirps, and some song-notes. It all 
lasted from 1 2 till after 3. Once in a while the species was plainly 
distinguishable; I could make out the bobolink, tanager, Wil- 
son's thrush, white-crown'd sparrow, and occasionally from high 
in the air came the notes of the plover. 

May-month — month of swarming, singing, mating birds — the 
bumble-bee month — month of the flowering lilac— (and then my 
ownbirth-month.) As I jot this paragraph, I am out just after 
sunrise, and down towards the creek. The lights, perfumes, 
melodies— the blue birds, grass birds and robins, in every direc- 
tion—the noisy, vocal, natural concert. For undertones, a neigh- 
boring wood-pecker tapping his tree, and the distant clarion of 
chanticleer. Then the fresh earth smells— the colors, the delicate 
drabs and thin blues of the perspective. The bright green of 
the grass has receiv'd an added tinge from the last two days' 
mildness and moisture. How the sun silently mounts in the 
broad clear sky, on his day's journey! How the warm beams 
bathe all, and come streaming kissingly and almost hot on my 

A while since the croaking of the pond-frogs and the first white 



of the dog-wood blossoms. Now the golden dandelions in end- 
less profusion, spotting the ground everywhere. The white cherry 
and pear-blows — the wild violets, with their blue eyes looking 
up and saluting my feet, as I saunter the wood-edge — the rosy 
blush of budding apple-trees — the light-clear emerald hue of 
the wheat-fields — the darker green of the rye — a warm elasticity 
pervading the air — the cedar-bushes profusely deck'd with their 
little brown apples — the summer fully awakening — the convoca- 
tion of black birds, garrulous flocks of them, gathering on some 
tree, and making the hour and place noisy as I sit near. 

Later. — Nature marches in procession, in sections, like the 
corps of an army. All have done much for me, and still do. 
But for the last two days it has been the great wild bee, the 
humble-bee, or " bumble," as the children call him. As I walk, 
or hobble, from the farm-house down to the creek, I traverse the 
before-mention'd lane, fenced by old rails, with many splits, 
splinters, breaks, holes, &c, the choice habitat of those crooning, 
hairy insects. Up and down and by and between these rails, 
they swarm and dart and fly in countless myriads. As I wend 
slowly along, I am often accompanied with a moving cloud of 
them. They play a leading part in my morning, midday or sun- 
set rambles, and often dominate the landscape in a way I never 
before thought of — fill the long lane, not by scores or hundreds 
only, but by thousands. Large and vivacious and swift, with 
wonderful momentum and a loud swelling perpetual hum, varied 
now and then by something almost like a shriek, they dart to 
and fro, in rapid flashes, chasing each other, and (little things as 
they are,) conveying to me a new and pronounc'd sense of 
strength, beauty, vitality and movement. Are they in their 
mating season? or what is the meaning of this plenitude, swift- 
ness, eagerness, display? As I walk'd, I thought I was follow'd 
by a particular swarm, but upon observation I saw that it was a 
rapid succession Of changing swarms, one after another. 

As I write, I am seated under a big wild-cherry tree — the warm 
day temper'd by partial clouds and a fresh breeze, neither too 
heavy nor light — and here I sit long and long, envelop'd in the 
deep musical drone of these bees, flitting, balancing, darting to 
and fro about me by hundreds — big fellows with light yellow 
jackets, great glistening swelling bodies, stumpy heads and gauzy 
wings — humming their perpetual rich mellow boom. (Is there 
not a hint in it for a musical composition, of which it should be 
the back-ground ? some bumble-bee symphony ?) How it all 
nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed ; the open air, the 
rye-fields, the apple orchards. The last two days have been 
faultless in sun, breeze, temperature and everything ; never two 


more perfect days, and I have enjoy' d them wonderfully. My 
health is somewhat better, and my spirit at peace. (Yet the anni- 
versary of the saddest loss and sorrow of my life is close at hand.) 

Another jotting, another perfect day : forenoon, from 7 to 9, 
two hours envelop'd in sound of bumble-bees and bird-music. 
Down in the apple-trees and in a neighboring cedar were three 
or four russet-back'd thrushes, each singing his best, and rou- 
lading in ways I never heard surpass'd. Two hours I abandon 
myself to hearing them, and indolently absorbing the scene. 
Almost every bird I notice has a special time in the year — some- 
times limited to a few days — when it sings its best ; and now is 
the period of these russet-backs. Meanwhile, up and down the 
lane, the darting, droning, musical bumble-bees. A great swarm 
again for my entourage as I return home, moving along with me 
as before. 

As I write this, two or three weeks later, I am sitting near the 
brook under a tulip tree, 70 feet high, thick with the fresh verdure 
of its young maturity — a beautiful object — every branch, every 
leaf perfect. From top to bottom, seeking the sweet juice in the 
blossoms, it swarms with myriads of these wild bees, whose loud 
and steady humming makes an undertone to the whole, and to my 
mood and the hour. All of which I will bring to a close by ex- 
tracting the following verses from Henry A. Beers's little volume: 

" As I lay yonder in tall grass 
A drunken bumble-bee went past 
Delirious with honey toddy. 
The golden sash about his body 
Scarce kept it in his swollen belly 
Distent with honeysuckle jelly. 
Rose liquor and the sweet-pea wine 
Had fill'd his soul with song divine; 
Deep had he drunk the warm night through, 
His hairy thighs were wet with dew. 
Full many an antic he had play'd 
While the world went round through sleep and shade. 
Oft had he lit with thirsty lip 
Some flower-cup's nectar'd sweets to sip, 
When on smooth petals he would slip, 
Or over tangled stamens trip, 
And headlong in the pollen roll'd, 
Crawl out quite dusted o'er with gold; 
Or else his heavy feet would stumble 
Against some bud, and down he'd tumble 
Amongst the grass ; there lie and grumble 
In low, soft bass — poor maudlin bumble!" 

As I journey'd to-day in a light wagon ten or twelve miles 
through the country, nothing pleas'd me more, in their homely 


beauty and novelty (I had either never seen the little things to 
such advantage, or had never noticed them before) than that 
peculiar fruit, with its profuse clear-yellow dangles of inch-long 
silk or yarn, in boundless profusion spotting the dark-green cedar 
bushes — contrasting well with their bronze tufts — the flossy shreds 
covering the knobs all over, like a shock of wild hair on elfin 
pates. On my ramble afterward down by the creek I pluck'd 
one from its bush, and shall keep it. These cedar-apples last only 
a little while however, and soon crumble and fade. 


June 10th. — As I write, 5^ p. m., here by the creek, nothing 
can exceed the quiet splendor and freshness around me. We had 
a heavy shower, with brief thunder and lightning, in the middle 
of the day ; and since, overhead, one of those not uncommon yet 
indescribable skies (in quality, not details or forms) of limpid 
blue, with rolling silver-fringed clouds, and a pure-dazzling sun. 
For underlay, trees in fulness of tender foliage — liquid, reedy, 
long-drawn notes of birds — based by the fretful mewing of a 
querulous cat-bird, and the pleasant chippering-shriek of two 
kingfishers. I have been watching the latter the last half hour, 
on their regular evening frolic over and in the stream ; evidently 
a spree of the liveliest kind. They pursue each other, whirling 
and wheeling around, with many a jocund downward dip, splash- 
ing the spray in jets of diamonds — and then off they swoop, with 
slanting wings and graceful flight, sometimes so near me I can 
plainly see their dark-gray feather-bodies and milk-white necks. 

June igthj 4 to 6j^», p. m. — Sitting alone by the creek — solitude 
here, but the scene bright and vivid enough — the sun shining, 
and quite afresh wind blowing (some heavy showers last night,) the 
grass and trees looking their best — the clare-obscure of different 
greens, shadows, half-shadows, and the dappling glimpses of the 
water, through recesses — the wild flageolet-note of a quail near 
by — the just-heard fretting of some hylas down there in the pond 
— crows cawing in the distance — a drove of young hogs rooting 
in soft ground near the oak under which I sit — some come sniffing 
near me, and then scamper away, with grunts. And still the 
clear notes of the quail — the quiver of leaf-shadows over the paper 
as I write — the sky aloft, with white clouds, and the sun well 
declining to the west — the swift darting of many sand-swallows 
coming and going, their holes in a neighboring marl-bank — the 
odor of the cedar and oak, so palpable, as evening approaches — 
perfume, color, the bronze-and-gold of nearly ripen'd wheat — 
clover-fields, with honey-scent — the well-up maize, with long and 


rustling leaves — the great patches of thriving potatoes, dusky 
green, fleck'd all over with white blossoms — the old, warty, 
venerable oak above me — and ever, mix'd with the dual notes of 
the quail, the soughing of the wind through some near-by 

As I rise for return, I linger long to a delicious song-epilogue 
(is it the hermit-thrush ?) from some bushy recess off there in the 
swamp, repeated leisurely and pensively over and over again. 
This, to the circle-gambols of the swallows flying by dozens in 
concentric rings in the last rays of sunset, like flashes of some 

airy wheel. 


The fervent heat, but so much more endurable in this pure 
air — the white and pink pond-blossoms, with great heart-shaped 
leaves ; the glassy waters of the creek, the banks, with dense 
bushery, and the picturesque beeches and shade and turf; the 
tremulous, reedy call of some bird from recesses, breaking the 
warm, indolent, half-voluptuous silence ; an occasional wasp, 
hornet, honey-bee or bumble (they hover near my hands or face, 
yet annoy me not, nor I them, as they appear to examine, find 
nothing, and away they go) — the vast space of the sky overhead 
so clear, and the buzzard up there sailing his slow whirl in ma- 
jestic spirals and discs; just over the surface of the pond, two 
large slate-color'd dragon-flies, with wings of lace, circling and 
darting and occasionally balancing themselves quite still, their 
wings quivering all the time, (are they not showing off for my 
amusement ?) — the pond itself, with the sword-shaped calamus ; 
the water snakes — occasionally a flitting blackbird, with red 
dabs on his shoulders, as he darts slantingly by — the sounds that 
bring out the solitude, warmth, light and shade — the quawk of 
some pond duck — (the crickets and grasshoppers are mute in the 
noon heat, but I hear the song of the first cicadas ;) — then at 
some distance the rattle and whirr of a reaping machine as the 
horses draw it on a rapid walk through a rye field on the oppo- 
site side of the creek — (what was the yellow or light-brown bird, 
large as a young hen, with short neck and long-stretch'd legs I 
just saw, in flapping and awkward flight over there through the 
trees?) — the prevailing delicate, yet palpable, spicy, grassy, 
clovery perfume to my nostrils ; and over all, encircling all, to 
my sight and soul, the free space of the sky, transparent and blue 
— and hovering there in the west, a mass of white-gray fleecy 
clouds the sailors call "shoals of mackerel " — the sky, with sil- 
ver swirls like locks of toss'd hair, spreading, expanding — a vast 
voiceless, formless simulacrum — yet may-be the most real reality 
and formulator of everything — who knows ? 



Aug. 22. — Reedy monotones of locust, or sounds of katydid 
— I hear the latter at night, and the other both day and night. 
I thought the morning and evening warble of birds delightful ; 
but I find I can listen to these strange insects with just as much 
pleasure. A single locust is now heard near noon from a tree 
two hundred feet off, as I write — a long whirring, continued, 
quite loud noise graded in distinct whirls, or swinging circles, 
increasing in strength and rapidity up to a certain point, and 
then a fluttering, quietly tapering fall. Each strain is continued 
from one to two minutes. The locust-song is very appropriate 
to the scene — gushes, has meaning, is masculine, is like some 
fine old wine, not sweet, but far better than sweet. 

But the katydid — how shall I describe its piquant utterances ? 
One sings from a willow-tree just outside my open bedroom win- 
dow, twenty yards distant; every clear night for a fortnight past 
has sooth' d me to sleep. I rode through a piece of woods for a 
hundred rods the other evening, and heard the katydids by 
myriads — very curious for once ; but I like better my single 
neighbor on the tree. 

Let me say more about the song of the locust, even to repeti- 
tion ; a long, chromatic, tremulous crescendo, like a brass disk 
whirling round and round, emitting wave after wave of notes, 
beginning with a certain moderate beat or measure, rapidly in- 
creasing in speed and emphasis, reaching a point of great energy 
and significance, and then quickly and gracefully dropping down 
and out. Not the melody of the singing-bird — far from it ; the 
common musician might think without melody, but surely having 
to the finer ear a harmony of its own ; monotonous — but what a 
swing there is in that brassy drone, round and round, cymbal- 
line — or like the whirling of brass quoits. 


Sept. i. — I should not take either the biggest or the most pic- 
turesque tree to illustrate it. Here is one of my favorites now 
before me, a fine yellow poplar, quite straight, perhaps 90 feet 
high, and four thick at the butt. How strong, vital, enduring ! 
how dumbly eloquent ! What suggestions of imperturbability 
and being, as against the human trait of mere seeming. Then the 
qualities, almost emotional, palpably artistic, heroic, of a tree; so 
innocent and harmless, yet so savage. It ts, yet says nothing. 
How it rebukes by its tough and equable serenity all weathers, 
this gusty-temper'd little whiffet, man, that runs indoors at a 
mite of rain or snow. Science (or rather half-way science) scoffs 
at reminiscence of dryad and hamadryad, and of trees speaking. 



But, if they don't, they do as well as most speaking, writing, 
poetry, sermons — or rather they do a great deal better. I should 
say indeed that those old dryad-reminiscences are quite as true 
as any, and profounder than most reminiscences we get. (" Cut 
this out," as the quack mediciners say, and keep by you.) Go 
and sit in a grove or woods, with one or more of those voiceless 
companions, and read the foregoing, and think. 

One lesson from affiliating a tree — perhaps the greatest moral 
lesson anyhow from earth, rocks, animals, is that same lesson of 
inherency, of what is, without the least regard to what the looker 
on (the critic) supposes or says, or whether he likes or dislikes. 
What worse — what more general malady pervades each and all 
of us, our literature, education, attitude toward each other, (even 
toward ourselves,) than a morbid trouble about seems, (gener- 
ally temporarily seems too,) and no trouble at all, or hardly any, 
about the sane, slow-growing, perennial, real parts of character, 
books, friendship, marriage — humanity's invisible foundations 
and hold-together? (As the all-basis, the nerve, the great-sym- 
pathetic, the plenum within humanity, giving stamp to every- 
thing, is necessarily invisible.) 

Aug. 4, 6 p.m. — Lights and shades and rare effects on tree- 
foliage and grass — transparent greens, grays, &c, all in sunset 
pomp and dazzle. The clear beams* are now thrown in many 
new places, on the quilted, seam'd, bronze-drab, lower tree- 
trunks, shadow'd except at this hour — now flooding their young 
and old columnar ruggedness with strong light, unfolding to my 
sense new amazing features of silent, shaggy charm, the solid 
bark, the expression of harmless impassiveness, with many a 
bulge and gnarl unreck'd before. In the revealings of such 
light, such exceptional hour, such mood, one does not wonder 
at the old story fables, (indeed, why fables ?) of people falling into 
love-sickness with trees, seiz'd extatic with the mystic realism of 
the resistless silent strength in them — strength, which after all is 
perhaps the last, completest, highest beauty. 

Trees I am familiar with here. 

Oaks, (many kinds — one sturdy ern Illinois, 140 feet high and 

old fellow, vital, green, bushy, 8 feet thick at the butt* ; does 

five feet thick at the butt, I sit not transplant well; best rais'd 

under every day.) from seeds — the lumbermen 

Cedars, plenty. call it yellow poplar.) 

Tulip trees, (Liriodendron, is of Sycamores. 

the magnolia family — I have Gum-trees, both sweet and sour, 

seen it in Michigan and south- Beeches. 

* There is a tulip poplar within sight of Woodstown, which is twenty feet 
around, three feet from the ground, four feet across about eighteen feet up the 
trunk, which is broken off about three or four feet higher up. On the south 



Black-walnuts. Dogwood. 

Sassafras. Pine. 

Willows. the Elm. 

Catalpas. Chestnut. 

Persimmons. Linden. 

Mountain-ash. Aspen. 

Hickories. Spruce. 

Maples, many kinds. Hornbeam. 

Locusts. Laurel. 

Birches. Holly. 


Sept. 20. — Under an old black oak, glossy and green, exhaling 
aroma — amid a grove the Albic druids might have chosen — en- 
velop'd in the warmth and light of the noonday sun, and swarms 
of flitting insects — with the harsh cawing of many crows a hun- 
dred rods away — here I sit in solitude, absorbing, enjoying all. 
The corn, stack'd in its cone-shaped stacks, russet-color'd and 
sere — a large field spotted thick with scarlet-gold pumpkins — an 
adjoining one of cabbages, showing well in their green and pearl, 
mottled by much light and shade — melon patches, with their 
bulging ovals, and great silver-streak'd, ruffled, broad-edged 
leaves — and many an autumn sight and sound beside — the dis- 
tant scream of a flock of guinea-hens — and pour'd over all the 
September breeze, with pensive cadence through the tree tops. 

Another Day. — The ground in all directions strew'd with de- 
bris from a storm. Timber creek, as I slowly pace its banks, has 
ebb'd low, and shows reaction from the turbulent swell of the 
late equinoctial. As I look around, I take account of stock — 
weeds and shrubs, knolls, paths, occasional stumps, some with 
smooth' d tops, (several I use as seats of rest, from place to place, 
and from one I am now jotting these lines,) — frequent wild- 
flowers, little white, star-shaped things, or the cardinal red of the 
lobelia, or the cherry-ball seeds of the perennial rose, or the 
many-threaded vines winding up and around trunks of trees. 

Oct. 1, 2 and 3. — Down every day in the solitude of the creek. 
A serene autumn sun and westerly breeze to-day (3d) as I sit 
here, the water surface prettily moving in wind-ripples before 
me. On a stout old beech at the edge, decayed and slanting, 
almost fallen to the stream, yet with life and leaves in its mossy 

side an arm has shot out from which rise two stems, each to about ninety- one 
or ninety-two feet from the ground. Twenty-five (or more) years since the 
cavity in the butt was large enough for, and nine men at one time, ate dinner 
therein. It is supposed twelve to fifteen men could now, at one time, stand 
within its trunk. The severe winds of 1877 and 1878 did not seem to damage 
it, and the two stems send out yearly many blossoms, scenting the air imme- 
diately about it with their sweet perfume. It is entirely unprotected by other 
trees, on a hill. — Woodstown, N. y., " Register" April ij, ,r jg. 


limbs, a gray squirrel, exploring, runs up and down, flirts his 
tail, leaps to the ground, sits on his haunches upright as he sees 
me ' (a Darwinian hint?) and then races up the tree again. 

Q ctm 4 .— Cloudy and coolish j signs of incipient winter. Yet 
pleasant here, the leaves thick-falling, the ground brown with 
them already; rich coloring, yellows of all hues, pale and dark- 
green, shades from lightest to richest red— all set in and toned 
down' by the prevailing brown of the earth and gray of the sky. 
So, winter is coming ; and I yet in my sickness. I sit here amid 
all these fair sights and vital influences, and abandon myself to 
that thought, with its wandering trains of speculation. 


Oct 20. — A clear, crispy day— dry and breezy air, full of oxy- 
gen. Out of the sane, silent, beauteous miracles that envelope 
and fuse me — trees, water, grass, sunlight, and early frost — the 
one I am looking at most to-day is the sky. It has that delicate, 
transparent blue, peculiar to autumn, and the only clouds are 
little or larger white ones, giving their still and spiritual motion 
to the great concave. All through the earlier day (say from 7 
to 11) it keeps a pure, yet vivid blue. But as noon approaches 
the color gets lighter, quite gray for two or three hours — then 
still paler for a spell, till sun-down— which last I watch dazzling 
through the interstices of a knoll of big trees — darts of fire and 
a gorgeous show of light-yellow, liver-color and red, with a vast 
silver glaze askant on the water — the transparent shadows, shafts, 
sparkle, and vivid colors beyond all the paintings ever made. 

I don't know what or how, but it seems to me mostly owing 
to these skies, (every now and then I think, while I have of course 
seen them every day of my life, I never really saw the skies be- 
fore,) I have had this autumn some wondrously contented hours 
— may I not say perfectly happy ones ? As I've read, Byron just 
before his death told a friend that he had known but three happy 
hours during his whole existence. Then there is the old German 
legend of the king's bell, to the same point. While I was out 
there by the wood, that beautiful sunset through the trees, I 
thought of Byron's and the bell story, and the notion started in 
me that I was having a happy hour. (Though perhaps my best 
moments I never jot down ; when they come I cannot afford to 
break the charm by inditing memoranda. I just abandon my- 
self to the mood, and let it float on, carrying me in its placid 

What is happiness, anyhow? Is this one of its hours, or the 
like of it? — so impalpable — a mere breath, an evanescent tinge? 
I am not sure — so let me give myself the benefit of the doubt. 



Hast Thou, pellucid, in Thy azure depths, medicine for case like 
mine ? (Ah, the physical shatter and troubled spirit of me the 
last three years.) And dost Thou subtly mystically now drip it 
through the air invisibly upon me? 

Night of Oct. 28. — The heavens unusually transparent — the 
stars out by myriads — the great path of the Milky Way, with its 
branch, only seen of very clear nights — Jupiter, setting in the 
west, looks like a huge hap-hazard splash, and has a little star for 

Clothed in his white garments, 

Into the round and clear arena slowly entered the brahmin, 

Holding a little child by the hand, 

Like the moon with the planet Jupiter in a cloudless night-sky. 

Old Hindu Poem, 

Early in November. — At its farther end the lane already de- 
scribed opens into a broad grassy upland field of over twenty 
acres, slightly sloping to the south. Here I am accustom'd to 
walk for sky views and effects, either morning or sundown. To- 
day from this field my soul is calm'd and expanded beyond de- 
scription, the whole forenoon by the clear blue arching over all, 
cloudless, nothing particular, only sky and daylight. Their 
soothing accompaniments, autumn leaves, the cool dry air, the 
faint aroma — crows cawing in the distance — two great buz- 
zards wheeling gracefully and slowly far up there — the occasional 
murmur of the wind, sometimes quite gently, then threatening 
through the trees — a gang of farm-laborers loading corn-stalks in 
a field in sight, and the patient horses waiting. 


Such a play of colors and lights, different seasons, different 
hours of the day — the lines of the far horizon where the faint- 
tinged edge of the landscape loses itself in the sky. As I slowly 
hobble up the lane toward day-close, an incomparable sunset 
shooting in molten sapphire and gold, shaft after shaft, through 
the ranks of the long-leaved corn, between me and the west. 

Another day. — The rich dark green of the tulip-trees and the 
oaks, the gray of the swamp-willows, the dull hues of the syca- 
mores and black-walnuts, the emerald of the cedars (after rain,) 
and the light yellow of the beeches. 

NOVEMBER 8, '76. 

The forenoon leaden and cloudy, not cold or wet, but indica- 
ting both. As I hobble down here and sit by the silent pond, 
how different from the excitement amid which, in the cities, 
millions of people are now waiting news of yesterday's Presi- 


dential election, or receiving and discussing the result — in this 
secluded place uncared-for, unknown. 

Nov. 14. — As I sit here by the creek, resting after my walk, a 
warm languor bathes me from the sun. No sound but a cawing 
of crows, and no motion but their black flying figures from over- 
head, reflected in the mirror of the pond below. Indeed a prin- 
cipal feature of the scene to-day is these crows, their incessant 
cawing, far or near, and their countless flocks and processions 
moving from place to place, and at times almost darkening the 
air with their myriads. As I sit a moment writing this by the 
bank, I see the black, clear-cut reflection of them far below, flying 
through the watery looking-glass, by ones, twos, or long strings. 
All last night I heard the noises from their great roost in a neigh- 
boring wood. 


One bright December mid-day lately I spent down on the New 
Jersey sea-shore, reaching it by a little more than an hour's 
railroad trip over the old Camden and Atlantic. I had started 
betimes, fortified by nice strong coffee and a good breakfast 
(cook'd by the hands I love, my dear sister Lou's — how much 
better it makes the victuals taste, and then assimilate, strengthen 
you, perhaps make the whole day comfortable afterwards.) Five 
or six miles at the last, our track enter' d a broad region of salt 
grass meadows, intersected by lagoons, and cut up everywhere by 
watery runs. The sedgy perfume, delightful to my nostrils, re- 
minded me of " the mash " and south bay of my native island. 
I could have journey'd contentedly till night through these flat 
and odorous sea-prairies. From half-past 1 1 till 2 I was nearly 
all the time along the beach, or in sight of the ocean, listening 
to its hoarse murmur, and inhaling the bracing and welcome 
breezes. First, a rapid five-mile drive over the hard sand — our 
carriage wheels hardly made dents in it. Then after dinner (as 
there were nearly two hours to spare) I walk'd off in another di- 
rection, (hardly met or saw a person,) and taking possession of 
what appear'd to have been the reception-room of an old bath- 
house range, had a broad expanse of view all to myself — quaint, 
refreshing, unimpeded — a dry area of sedge and Indian grass 
immediately before and around me — space, simple, unornamented 
space. Distant vessels, and the far-off, just visible trailing smoke 
of an inward bound steamer ; more plainly, ships, brigs, schooners, 
in sight, most of them with every sail set to the firm and steady 

The attractions, fascinations there are in sea and shore ! How 



one dwells on their simplicity, even vacuity ! What is it in us, 
arous'd by those indirections and directions ? That spread of 
waves and gray-white beach, salt, monotonous, senseless — such 
an entire absence of art, books, talk, elegance — so indescribably 
comforting, even this winter day — grim, yet so delicate-looking, 
so spiritual — striking emotional, impalpable depths, subtler than 
all the poems, paintings, music, I have ever read, seen, heard. 
(Yet let me be fair, perhaps it is because I have read those poems 
and heard that music.) 


Even as a boy, I had the fancy, the wish, to write a piece, per- 
haps a poem, about the sea-shore — that suggesting, dividing line, 
contact, junction, the solid marrying the liquid — that curious, 
lurking something, (as doubtless every objective form finally be- 
comes to the subjective spirit,) which means far more than its 
mere first sight, grand as that is — blending the real and ideal, 
and each made portion of the other. Hours, days, in my Long 
Island youth and early manhood, I haunted the snores of Rocka- 
way or Coney island, or away east to the Hamptons or Montauk. 
Once, at the latter place, (by the old lighthouse, nothing but 
sea-tossings in sight in every direction as far as the eye could 
reach,) I remember well, I felt that I must one day write a book 
expressing this liquid, mystic theme. Afterward, I recollect, 
how it came to me that instead of any special lyrical or epical or 
literary attempt, the sea-shore should be an invisible itiflue?ice, a 
pervading gauge and tally for me, in my composition. (Let me 
give a hint here to young writers. I am not sure but I have un- 
wittingly follow' d out the same rule with other powers besides 
sea and shores — avoiding them, in the way of any dead set at 
poetizing them, as too big for formal handling — quite satisfied if I 
could indirectly show that we have met and fused, even if only 
once, but enough — that we have really absorb' d each other and 
understand each other.) 

There is a dream, a picture, that for years at intervals, (some- 
times quite long ones, but surely again, in time,) has come noise- 
lessly up before me, and I really believe, fiction as it is, has enter'd 
largely into my practical life — certainly into my writings, and 
shaped and color'd them. It is nothing more or less than a 
stretch of interminable white-brown sand, hard and smooth and 
broad, with the ocean perpetually, grandly, rolling in upon it, 
with slow-measured sweep, with rustle and hiss and foam, and 
many a thump as of low bass drums. This scene, this picture, I 
say, has risen before me at times for years. Sometimes I wake at 
night and can hear and see it plainly. 

9 6 



Spoken at Lincoln Hall, Philadelphia, Sunday, Jan. z8, '77, for 140th anniversary of 

T. P.'s birth-day. 

Some thirty-five years ago, in New York city, at Tammany 
hall, of which place I was then a frequenter, I happen'd to be- 
come quite well acquainted with Thomas Paine's perhaps most 
intimate chum, and certainly his later years' very frequent com- 
panion, a remarkably fine old man, Col. Fellows, who may yet 
be remember'd by some stray relics of that period and spot. If 
you will allow me, I will first give a description of the Colonel 
himself. He was tall, of military bearing, aged about 78 I should 
think, hair white as snow, clean-shaved on the face, dress'd very 
neatly, a tail-coat of blue cloth with metal buttons, buff vest, 
pantaloons of drab color, and his neck, breast and wrists show- 
ing the whitest of linen. Under all circumstances, fine man- 
ners; a good but not profuse talker, his wits still fully about 
him, balanced and live and undimm'd as ever. He kept pretty 
fair health, though so old. For employment — for he was poor — 
he had a post as constable of some of the upper courts. I used 
to think him very picturesque on the fringe of a crowd holding 
a tall staff, with his erect form, and his superb, bare, thick- 
hair' d, closely-cropt white head. The judges and young lawyers, 
with whom he was ever a favorite, and the subject of respect, 
used to call him Aristides. It was the general opinion among 
them that if manly rectitude and the instincts of absolute jus- 
tice remain'd vital anywhere about New York City Hall, or Tam- 
many, they were to be found in Col. Fellows. He liked young 
men, and enjoy'd to leisurely talk with them over a social glass 
of toddy, after his day's work, (he on these occasions never 
drank but one glass,) and it was at reiterated meetings of this 
kind4n old Tammany's back parlor of those days, that he told 
me much about Thomas Paine. At one of our interviews he 
gave me a minute account of Paine's sickness and death. In 
short, from those talks, I was and am satisfied that my old friend, 
with his mark'd advantages, had mentally, morally and emotion- 
ally gauged the author of " Common Sense," and besides giving 
me a good portrait of his appearance and manners, had taken 
the true measure of his interior character. 

Paine's practical demeanor, and much of his theoretical be- 
lief, was a mixture of the French and English schools of a cen- 
tury ago, and the best of both. Like most old-fashion'd people, 
he drank a glass or two every day, but was no tippler, nor intem- 
perate, let alone being a drunkard. He lived simply and eco- 
nomically, but quite well — was always cheery and courteous, per- 
haps occasionally a little blunt, having very positive opinions 


upon politics, religion, and so forth. That he labor'd well and 
wisely for the States in the trying period of their parturition, and 
in the seeds of their character, there seems to me no question. 
I dare not say how much of what our Union is owning and en- 
joying to day — its independence — its ardent belief in, and sub- 
stantial practice of, radical human rights — and the severance of 
its government from all ecclesiastical and superstitious dominion 
— I dare not say how much of all this is owing to Thomas Paine, 
but I am inclined to think a good portion of it decidedly is. 

But I was not going either into an analysis or eulogium of the 
man. I wanted to carry you back a generation or two, and give 
you by indirection a moment's glance — and also to ventilate a 
very earnest and I believe authentic opinion, nay conviction, of 
that time, the fruit of the interviews I have mention'd, and of 
questioning and cross-questioning, clench'd by my best informa- 
tion since, that Thomas Paine had a noble "personality, as exhib- 
ited in presence, face, voice, dress, manner, and what may be 
call'd his atmosphere and magnetism, especially the later years 
of his life. I am sure of it. Of the foul and foolish fictions yet 
told about the circumstances of his decease, the absolute fact is 
that as he lived a good life, after its kind, he died calmly and 
philosophically, as became him. He served the embryo Union 
with most precious service — a service that every man, woman 
and child in our thirty-eight States is to some extent receiving 
the benefit of to-day — and I for one here cheerfully, reverently 
throw my pebble on the cairn of his memory. As we all know, 
the season demands — or rather, will it ever be out of season ? — 
that America learn to better dwell on her choicest possession, 
the legacy of her good and faithful men — that she well preserve 
their fame, if unquestion'd — or, if need be, that she fail not to 
dissipate what clouds have intruded on that fame, and burnish it 
newer, truer and brighter, continually. 

■Feb.jy '77. — From 4 to 6 p. m. crossing the Delaware, (back 
again at my Camden home,) unable to make our landing, through 
the ice ; our boat stanch and strong and skilfully piloted, but 
old and sulky, and poorly minding her helm. {Power, so impor- 
tant in poetry and war, is also first point of all in a winter steam- 
boat, with long stretches of ice-packs to tackle.) For over two 
hours we bump'd and beat about, the invisible ebb, sluggish but 
irresistible, often carrying us long distances against our will. In 
the first tinge of dusk, as I look'd around, I thought there could 
not be presented a more chilling, arctic, grim-extended, depress- 
ing scene. Everything was yet plainly visible ; for miles north 
and south, ice, ice, ice, mostly broken, but some big cakes, and 


9 8 


no clear water in sight. The shores, piers, surfaces, roofs, ship- 
ping, mantled with snow. A faint winter vapor hung a fitting 
accompaniment around and over the endless whitish spread, and 
gave it just a tinge of steel and brown. 

Feb. 6. — As I cross home in the 6 p. m. boat again, the trans- 
parent shadows are filled everywhere with leisurely falling, slightly 
slanting, curiously sparse but very large, flakes of snow. On the 
shores, near and far, the glow of just-lit gas-clusters at intervals. 
The ice, sometimes in hummocks, sometimes floating fields, 
through which our boat goes crunching. The light permeated 
by that peculiar evening haze, right after sunset, which sometimes 
renders quite distant objects so distinctly. 


Feb. io. — The first chirping, almost singing, of a bird to-day. 
Then I noticed a couple of honey-bees spirting and humming 
about the open window in the sun. 

Feb. ii. — In the soft rose and pale gold of the declining light, 
this beautiful evening, I heard the first hum and preparation of 
awakening spring — very faint — whether in the earth or roots, or 
starting of insects, I know not — but it was audible, as I lean'd 
on a rail (I am down in my country quarters awhile,) and look'd 
long at the western horizon. Turning to the east, Sirius, as the 
shadows deepen'd, came forth in dazzling splendor. And great 
Orion ; and a little to the north-east the big Dipper, standing 
on end. 

Feb. 20. — A solitary and pleasant sundown hour at the pond, 
exercising arms, chest, my whole body, by a tough oak sapling 
thick as my wrist, twelve feet high — pulling and pushing, inspir- 
ing the good air. After I wrestle with the tree awhile, I can feel 
its young sap and virtue welling up out of the ground and ting- 
ling through me from crown to toe, like health's wine. Then 
for addition and variety I launch forth in my vocalism ; shout 
declamatory pieces, sentiments, sorrow, anger, &c, from the 
stock poets or plays — or inflate my lungs and sing the wild tunes 
and refrains I heard of the blacks down south, or patriotic songs 
I learn'd in the army. I make the echoes ring, I tell you ! As 
the twilight fell, in a pause of these ebullitions, an owl somewhere 
the other side of the creek sounded too-oo-oo-oo-oo, soft and pen- 
sive (and I fancied a little sarcastic) repeated four or five times. 
Either to applaud the negro songs — or perhaps an ironical com- 
ment on the sorrow, anger, or style of the stock poets. 

How is it that in all the serenity and lonesomeness of solitude, 
away off here amid the hush of the forest, alone, or as I have 



found in prairie wilds, or mountain stillness, one is never entirely 
without the instinct of looking around, (I never am, and others 
tell me the same of themselves, confidentially,) for somebody to 
appear, or start up out of the earth, or from behind some tree or 
rock? Is it a lingering, inherited remains of man's primitive 
wariness, from the wild animals ? or from his savage ancestry far 
back? It is not at all nervousness or fear. Seems as if something 
unknown were possibly lurking in those bushes, or solitary places. 
Nay, it is quite certain there is — some vital unseen presence. 


Feb. 22. — Last night and to-day rainy and thick, till mid-after- 
noon, when the wind chopp'd round, the clouds swiftly drew off 
like curtains, the clear appear'd, and with it the fairest, grandest, 
most wondrous rainbow I ever saw, all complete, very vivid at 
its earth-ends, spreading vast effusions of illuminated haze, violet, 
yellow, drab-green, in all directions overhead, through which the 
sun beam'd — an indescribable utterance of color and light, so 
gorgeous yet so soft, such as I had never witness'd before. Then 
its continuance: a full hour pass'd before the last of those earth- 
ends disappear'd. The sky behind was all spread in translucent 
blue, with many little white clouds and edges. To these a sun- 
set, filling, dominating the esthetic and soul senses, sumptuously, 
tenderly, full. I end this note by the pond, just light enough to 
see, through the evening shadows, the western reflections in its 
water-mirror surface, with inverted figures of trees. I hear now 
and then theflup of a pike leaping out, and rippling the water. 

April 6. — Palpable spring indeed, or the indications of it. I 
am sitting in bright sunshine, at the edge of the creek, the sur- 
face just rippled by the wind. All is solitude, morning fresh- 
ness, negligence. For companions my two kingfishers sailing, 
winding, darting, dipping, sometimes capriciously separate, then 
flying together. I hear their guttural twittering again and again ; 
for awhile "nothing but that peculiar sound. As noon approaches 
other birds warm up. The reedy notes of the robin, and a mu- 
sical passage of two parts, one a clear delicious gurgle, with sev- 
eral other birds I cannot place. To which is join'd, (yes, I just 
hear it,) one low purr at intervals from some impatient hylas at 
the pond-edge. The sibilant murmur of a pretty stiff breeze 
now and then through the trees. Then a poor little dead leaf, 
long frost-bound, whirls from somewhere up aloft in one wild 
escaped freedom-spree in space and sunlight, and then dashes 
down to the waters, which hold it closely and soon drown it out 
of sight. The bushes and trees are yet bare, but the beeches have 



their wrinkled yellow leaves of last season's foliage largely left, 
frequent cedars and pines yet green, and the grass not without 
proofs of coming fulness. And over all a wonderfully fine dome 
of clear blue, the play of light coming and going, and great 
fleeces of white clouds swimming so silently. 


The soil, too — let others pen-and-ink the sea, the air, (as I some- 
times try) — but now I feel to choose the common soil for theme — 
naught else. The brown soil here, (just between winter-close 
and opening spring and vegetation) — the rain-shower at night, 
and the fresh smell next morning — the red worms wriggling out 
of the ground — the dead leaves, the incipient grass, and the latent 
life underneath — the effort to start something — already in shel- 
ter'd spots some little flowers — the distant emerald show of win- 
ter wheat and the rye-fields — the yet naked trees, with clear in- 
terstices, giving prospects hidden in summer — the tough fallow 
and the plow-team, and the stout boy whistling to his horses for 
encouragement — and there the dark fat earth in long slanting 
stripes upturn' d. 


A little later — bright weather. — An unusual melodiousness, 
these days, (last of April and first of May) from the blackbirds ; 
indeed all sorts of birds, darting, whistling, hopping or perch'd 
on trees. Never before have I seen, heard, or been in the midst 
of, and got so flooded and saturated with them and their perform- 
ances, as this current month. Such oceans, such successions of 
them. Let me make a list of those I find here : 

Blackbirds (plenty,) 

Ring doves, 




Crows (plenty,) 






Yellow birds, 


Reed birds, 

Early came the 

Blue birds, 





Meadow-larks (plenty,) 

Cat-birds (plenty,) 


Pond snipes (plenty,) 



Ground robins, 


Gray snipes, 






Meadow lark, 
White-bellied swallow, 
Wilson's thrush, 



May 21. — Back in Camden. Again commencing one of those 
unusually transparent, full-starr'd, blue-black nights, as if to 
show that however lush and pompous the day may be, there is 
something left in the not-day that can outvie it. The rarest, 
finest sample of long-drawn-out clear-obscure, from sundown to 
9 o'clock. I went down to the Delaware, and cross'd and cross'd. 
Venus like blazing silver well up in the west. The large pale 
thin crescent of the new moon, half an hour high, sinking languidly 
under a bar-sinister of cloud, and then emerging. Arcturus right 
overhead. A faint fragrant sea-odor wafted up from the south. 
The gloaming, the temper' d coolness, with every feature of the 
scene, indescribably soothing and tonic — one of those hours that 
give hints to the soul, impossible to put in a statement. (Ah, 
where would be any food for spirituality without night and the 
stars?) The vacant spaciousness of the air, and the veil'd blue 
of the heavens, seem'd miracles enough. 

As the night advanc'd it changed its spirit and garments to 
ampler stateliness. I was almost conscious of a definite pres- 
ence, Nature silently near. The great constellation of the Water- 
Serpent stretch' d its coils over more than half the heavens. The 
Swan with outspread wings was flying down the Milky Way. 
The northern Crown, the Eagle, Lyra, all up there in their 
places. From the whole dome shot down points of light, rap- 
port with me, through the clear blue-black. All the usual sense 
of motion, all animal life, seem'd discarded, seem'd a fiction ; a 
curious power, like the placid rest of Egyptian gods, took pos- 
session, none the less potent for being impalpable. Earlier I 
had seen many bats, balancing in the luminous twilight, darting 
their black forms hither and yon over the river ; but now they 
altogether disappear'd. The evening star and the moon had 
gone. Alertness and peace lay calmly couching together through 
the fluid universal shadows. 

Aug. 26. — Bright has the day been, and my spirits an equal 
forzando. Then comes the night, different, inexpressibly pen- 
sive, with its own tender and temper' d splendor. Venus lingers 
in the west with a voluptuous dazzle unshown hitherto this sum- 
mer. Mars rises early, and the red sulky moon, two days past 
her full; Jupiter at night's meridian, and the long curling- 
slanted Scorpion stretching full view in the south, Aretus-neck'd. 
Mars walks the heavens lord-paramount now; all through this 
month I go out after supper and watch for him ; sometimes get- 
ting up at midnight to take another look at his unparallel'd lustre. 
(I see lately an astronomer has made out through the new Wash- 
ington telescope that Mars has certainly one moon, perhaps 


two.) Pale and distant, but near in the heavens, Saturn pre- 
cedes him. 


Large, placid mulleins, as summer advances, velvety in tex- 
ture, of a light greenish-drab color, growing everywhere in the 
fields — at first earth's big rosettes in their broad-leav'd low cluster- 
plants, eight, ten, twenty leaves to a plant — plentiful on the fal- 
low twenty-acre lot, at the end of the lane, and especially by 
the ridge-sides of the fences — then close to the ground, but soon 
springing up — leaves as broad as my hand, and the lower ones 
twice as long — so fresh and dewy in the morning — stalks now four 
or five, even seven or eight feet high. The farmers, I find, think 
the mullein a mean unworthy weed, but I have grown to a fond- 
ness for it. Every object has its lesson, enclosing the suggestion 
of everything else — and lately I sometimes think all is concen- 
trated for me in these hardy, yellow-flower'd weeds. As I come 
down the lane early in the morning, I pause before their soft 
wool-like fleece and stem and broad leaves, glittering with count- 
less diamonds. Annually for three summers now, they and I 
have silently return'd together ; at such long intervals I stand or 
sit among them, musing — and woven with the rest, of so many 
hours and moods of partial rehabilitation — of my sane or sick 
spirit, here as near at peace as it can be. 


The axe of the wood-cutter, the measured thud of a single 
threshing-flail, the crowing of chanticleer in the barn-yard, (with 
invariable responses from other barn-yards,) and the lowing of 
cattle — but most of all, or far or near, the wind — through the 
high tree-tops, or through low bushes, laving one's face and 
hands so gently, this balmy-bright noon, the coolest for a long 
time, (Sept. 2) — I will not call it sighing, for to me it is always a 
firm, sane, cheery expression, though a monotone, giving many 
varieties, or swift or slow, or dense or delicate. The wind in the 
patch of pine woods off there — how sibilant. Or at sea, I can 
imagine it this moment, tossing the waves, with spirts of foam 
flying far, and the free whistle, and the scent of the salt — and 
that vast paradox somehow with all its action and restlessness 
conveying a sense of eternal rest. 

Other adjuncts. — But the sun and moon here and these times. 
As never more wonderful by day, the gorgeous orb imperial, so 
vast, so ardently, lovingly hot — so never a more glorious moon 
of nights, especially the last three or four. The great planets too 
— Mars never before so flaming bright, so flashing-large, with 
slight yellow tinge, (the astronomers say — is it true ? — nearer to 


us than any time the past century) — and well up, lord Jupiter, 
(a little while since close by the moon) — and in the west, after 
the sun sinks, voluptuous Venus, now languid and shorn of her 
beams, as if from some divine excess. 


Sunday, Aug. 27. — Another day quite free from mark'd pros- 
tration and pain. It seems indeed as if peace and nutriment 
from heaven subtly filter into me as I slowly hobble down these 
country lanes and across fields, in the good air — as I sit here in 
solitude with Nature — open, voiceless, mystic, far removed, yet 
palpable, eloquent Nature. I merge myself in the scene, in the 
perfect day. Hovering over the clear brook-water, I am sooth'd 
by its soft gurgle in one place, and the hoarser murmurs of its 
three-foot fall in another. Come, ye disconsolate, in whom any 
latent eligibility is left — come get the sure virtues of creek-shore, 
and wood and field. Two months (July and August, '77,) have 
I absorb' d them, and they begin to make a new man of me. 
Every day, seclusion — every day at least two or three hours of 
freedom, bathing, no talk, no bonds, no dress, no books, no man- 

Shall I tell you, reader, to what I attribute my already much-re- 
stored health ? That I have been almost two years, off and on, 
without drugs and medicines, and daily in the open air. Last 
summer I found a particularly secluded little dell off one side by 
my creek, originally a large dug-out marl-pit, now abandon' d, fill'd 
with bushes, trees, grass, a group of willows, a straggling bank, 
and a spring of delicious water running right through the middle 
of it, with two or three little cascades. Here I retreated every 
hot day, and follow it up this summer. Here I realize the mean- 
ing of that old fellow who said he was seldom less alone than 
when alone. Never before did I get so close to Nature; never 
before did she come so close to me. By old habit, I pencill'd 
down from to time to time, almost automatically, moods, sights, 
hours, tints and outlines, on the spot. Let me specially record 
the satisfaction of this current forenoon, so serene and primi- 
tive, so conventionally exceptional, natural. - 

An hour or so after breakfast I wended my way down to the 
recesses of the aforesaid dell, which I and certain thrushes, cat- 
birds, &c, had all to ourselves. A light south-west wind was 
blowing through the tree-tops. It was just the place and time 
for my Adamic air-bath and flesh-brushing from head to foot. So 
hanging clothes on a rail near by, keeping old broadbrim straw 
on head and easy shoes on feet, havn't I had a good time the 
last two hours ! First with the stiff-elastic bristles rasping arms, 



breast, sides, till they turn'd scarlet — then partially bathing in the 
clear waters of the running brook — taking everything very leis- 
urely, with many rests and pauses — stepping about barefooted 
every few minutes now and then in some neighboring black ooze, 
for unctuous mud-bath to my feet — a brief second and third 
rinsing in the crystal running waters — rubbing with the fragrant 
towel — slow negligent promenades on the turf up and down in 
the sun, varied with occasional rests, and further frictions of the 
bristle-brush^-sometimes carrying my portable chair with me 
from place to place, as my range is quite extensive here, nearly 
a hundred rods, feeling quite secure from intrusion, (and that 
indeed I am not at all nervous about, if it accidentally happens.) 

As I walk'd slowly over the grass, the sun shone out enough 
to show the shadow moving with me. Somehow I seem'd to get 
identity with each and every thing around me, in its condition. 
Nature was naked, and I was also. It was too lazy, soothing, 
and joyous-equable to speculate about. Yet I might have 
thought somehow in this vein : Perhaps the inner never lost rap- 
port we hold with earth, light, air, trees, &c, is not to be real- 
ized through eyes and mind only, but through the whole corpo- 
real body, which I will not have blinded or bandaged any more 
than the eyes. Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature ! — ah if 
poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you 
once more! Is not nakedness then indecent? No, "not inhe- 
rently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your 
respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these 
clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are them- 
selves indecent. Perhaps indeed he or she to whom the free ex- 
hilarating extasy of nakedness in Nature has never been eligible 
(and how many thousands there are !) has not really known what 
purity is — nor what faith or art or health really is. (Probably 
the whole curriculum of first-class philosophy, beauty, heroism, 
form, illustrated by the old Hellenic race — the highest height 
and deepest depth known to civilization in those departments — 
came from their natural and religious idea of Nakedness.) 

Many such hours, from time to time, the last two summers — 
I attribute my partial rehabilitation largely to them. Some good 
people may think it a feeble or half-crack'd way of spending 
one's time and thinking. May-be it is. 


Sept. 5, '77. — I write this, 11 a. m., shelter'd under a dense oak 
by the bank, where I have taken refuge from a sudden rain. I 
came down here, (we had sulky drizzles all the morning, but an 
hour ago a lull,) for the before-mention'd daily and simple exer- 



cise I am fond of — to pull on that young hickory sapling out 
there — to sway and yield to its tough-limber upright stem — haply 
to get into my old sinews some of its elastic fibre and clear sap. 
I stand on the turf and take these health-pulls moderately and at 
intervals for nearly an hour, inhaling great draughts of fresh air. 
Wandering by the creek, I have three or four naturally favorable 
spots where I rest — besides a chair I lug with me and use for 
more deliberate occasions. At other spots convenient I have se- 
lected, besides the hickory just named, strong and limber boughs 
of beech or holly, in easy-reaching distance, for my natural 
gymnasia, for arms, chest, trunk- muscles. I can soon feel the 
sap and sinew rising through me, like mercury to heat. I hold 
on boughs or slender trees caressingly there in the sun and shade, 
wrestle with their innocent stalwartness — and know the virtue 
thereof passes from them into me. (Or may-be we interchange 
« — may-be the trees are more aware of it all than I ever thought.) 
But now pleasantly imprison'd here under the big oak — the 
rain dripping, and the sky cover'd with leaden clouds— nothing 
but the pond on one side, and the other a spread of grass, spot- 
ted with the milky blossoms of the wild carrot — the sound of an 
axe wielded at some distant wood-pile — yet in this dull scene, (as 
most folks would call it,) why am I so (almost) happy here and 
alone? Why would any intrusion, even from people I like, spoil 
the charm ? But am I alone ? Doubtless there comes a time — 
perhaps it has come to me — when one feels through his whole 
being, and pronouncedly the emotional part, that identity be- 
tween himself subjectively and Nature objectively which Schell- 
ing and Fichte are so fond of pressing. How it is I know not, 
but I often realize a presence here — in clear moods I am certain 
of it, and neither chemistry nor reasoning nor esthetics will give 
the least explanation. All the past two summers it has been 
strengthening and nourishing my sick body and soul, as never 
before. Thanks, invisible physician, for thy silent delicious medi- 
cine, thy day and night, thy waters and thy airs, the banks, the 
grass, the trees, and e'en the weeds ! 

While I have been kept by the rain under the shelter of my 
great oak, (perfectly dry and comfortable, to the rattle of the 
drops all around,) I have pencill'd off the mood of the hour in a 
little quintette, which I will give you : 

At vacancy with Nature, 
Acceptive and at ease, 
Distilling the present hour, 
Whatever, wherever it is, 
And over the past, oblivion. 


Can you get hold of it, reader dear ? and how do you like it 



Where I was stopping I saw the first palpable frost, on my sun- 
rise walk, October 6 ; all over the yet-green spread a light blue- 
gray veil, giving a new show to the entire landscape. I had but 
little time to notice it, for the sun rose cloudless and mellow- 
warm, and as I returned along the lane it had turn'd to glittering 
patches of wet. As I walk I notice the bursting pods of wild- 
cotton, (Indian hemp they call it here,) with flossy-silky contents, 
and dark red-brown seeds — a startled rabbit — I pull a handful 
of the balsamic life-everlasting and stuff it down in my trowsers- 
pocket for scent. 


December 20. — Somehow I got thinking to-day of young 
men's deaths — not at all sadly or sentimentally, but gravely, 
realistically., perhaps a little artistically. Let me give the follow- 
ing three cases from budgets of personal memoranda, which I 
have been turning over, alone in my room, and resuming and 
dwelling on, this rainy afternoon. Who is there to whom the 
theme does not come home ? Then I don't know how it may be 
to others, but to me not only is there nothing gloomy or depress- 
ing in such cases — on the contrary, as reminiscences, I find them 
soothing, bracing, tonic. 

Erastus Haskell. — [I just transcribe verbatim from a letter 
written by myself in one of the army hospitals, 16 years ago, 
during the secession war.] Washington, July 28, iSSj. — Dear 
M., — I am writing this in the hospital, sitting by the side of a 
soldier, I do not expect to last many hours. His fate has been a 
hard one — he seems to be only about 19 or 20 — Erastus Haskell, 
company K, 141st N. Y. — has been out about a year, and sick 
or half-sick more than half that time — has been down on the 
peninsula — was detail'd to go in the band as fifer-boy. While 
sick, the surgeon told him to keep up with the rest — (probably 
work'd and march'd too long.) He is a shy, and seems to me 
a very sensible boy — has fine manners — never complains — was 
sick down on the peninsula in an old storehouse — typhoid fever. 
The first week this July was brought up here — journey very bad, 
no accommodations, no nourishment, nothing but hard jolting, 
and exposure enough to make a well man sick ; (these fearful 
journeys do the job for many) — arrived here July nth — a silent 
dark-skinn'd Spanish-looking youth, with large very dark blue 
eyes, peculiar looking. Doctor F. here made light of his sick- 
ness — said he would recover soon, &c. ; but I thought very differ- 


ent, and told F. so repeatedly; (I came near quarreling with him 
about it from the first) — but he laugh'd, and would not listen to 
me. About four days ago, I told Doctor he would in my opinion 
lose the boy without doubt — but F. again laugh'd at me. The 
next day he changed his opinion — I brought the head surgeon 
of the post — he said the boy would probably die, but they would 
make a hard fight for him. 

The last two days he has been lying panting for breath — a piti- 
ful sight. I have been with him some every day or night since 
he arrived. He suffers a great deal with the heat — says little or 
nothing — is flighty the last three days, at times — knows me al- 
ways, however — calls me " Walter" — (sometimes calls the name 
over and over and over again, musingly, abstractedly, to himself.) 
His father lives at Breesport, Chemung county, N. Y., is a me- 
chanic with large family — is a steady, religious man ; his mother 
too is living. I have written to them, and shall write again to- 
day — Erastus has not receiv'd a word from home for months. 

As I sit here writing to you, M., I wish you could see the 
whole scene. This young man lies within reach of me, flat on 
his back, his hands clasp'd across his breast, his thick black hair 
cut close ; he is dozing, breathing hard, every breath a spasm — 
it looks so cruel. He is a noble youngster, — I consider him past 
all hope. Often there is no one with him for a long while. I 
am here as much as possible. 

William Alcott, fireman. Camden, Nov., 1874. — Last Monday 
afternoon his widow, mother, relatives, mates of the fire depart- 
ment, and his other friends, (I was one, only lately it is true, 
but our love grew fast and clcfce, the days and nights of those 
eight weeks by the chair of rapid decline, and the bed of death,) 
gather'd to the funeral of this young man, who had grown up, 
and was well-known here. With nothing special, perhaps, to 
record, I would give a word or two to his memory. He seem'd 
to me not an inappropriate specimen in character and elements, 
of that bulk of the average good American race that ebbs and 
flows perennially beneath this scum of eructations on the surface. 
Always very quiet in manner, neat in person and dress, good 
temper'd — punctual and industrious at his work, till he could 
work no longer — he just lived his steady, square, unobtrusive 
life, in its own humble sphere, doubtless unconscious of itself. 
(Though I think there were currents of emotion and intellect un- 
develop'd beneath, far deeper than his acquaintances ever sus- 
pected — or than he himself ever did.) He was no talker. His 
troubles, when he had any, he kept to himself. As there was 
nothing querulous about him in life, he made no complaints 
during his last sickness. He was one of those persons that while 


his associates never thought of attributing any particular talent or 
grace to him, yet all insensibly, really, liked Billy Alcott. 

I, too, loved him. At last, after being with him quite a good 
deal — after hours and days of panting for breath, much of the 
time unconscious, (for though the consumption that had been 
lurking in his system, once thoroughly started, made rapid prog- 
ress, there was still great vitality in him, and indeed for four or 
five days he lay dying, before the close,) late on Wednesday 
night, Nov. 4th, where we surrounded his bed in silence, there 
came a lull — a longer drawn breath, a pause, a faint sigh — another 
— a weaker breath, another sigh — a pause again and just a trem- 
ble — and the face of the poor wasted young man (he was just 26,) 
fell gently over, in death, on my hand, on the pillow. 

Charles Caswell. — [I extract. the following, verbatim, from 
a letter to me dated September 29, from my friend John Bur- 
roughs, at Esopus-on-Hudson, New York State.] S. was away 
when your picture came, attending his sick brother, Charles — 
who has since died — an event that has sadden'd me much. 
Charlie was younger than S., and a most attractive young fellow. 
He work'd at my father's, and had done so for two years. He 
was about the best specimen of a young country farm-hand I ever 
knew. You would have loved him. He was like one of your 
poems. With his great strength, his blond hair, his cheerfulness 
and contentment, his universal good will, and his silent manly 
ways, he was a youth hard to match. He was murder'd by an 
old doctor. He had typhoid fever, and the old fool bled him 
twice. He lived to wear out the fever, but had not strength to 
rally. He was out of his head nearly all the time. In the morn- 
ing, as he died in the afternoon, S. was standing over him, when 
Charlie put up his arms around S.'s neck, and pull'd his face 
down and kiss'd him. S. said he knew then the end was near. 
(S. stuck to him day and night to the last.) When I was home 
in August, Charlie was cradling on the hill, and it was a picture 
to see him walk through the grain. All work seem'd play to 
him. He had no vices, any more than Nature has, and was be- 
lov'd by all who knew him. 

I have written thus to you about him, for such young men be- 
long to you ; he was of your kind. I wish you could have known 
him. He had the sweetness of a child, and the strength and 
courage and readiness of a young Viking. His mother and father 
are poor ; they have a rough, hard farm. His mother works in 
the field with her husband when the work presses. She has had 
twelve children. 


February 7, 1878.— Glistening sun to-day, with slight haze, 
warm enough, and yet tart, as I sit here in the open air, down 



in my country retreat, under an old cedar. For two hours I 
have been idly wandering around the woods and pond, lugging 
my chair, picking out choice spots to sit awhile — then up and 
slowly on again. All is peace here. Of course, none of the 
summer noises or vitality; to-day hardly even the winter ones. 
I amuse myself by exercising my voice in recitations, and in 
ringing the changes on all the vocal and alphabetical sounds. Not 
even an echo ; only the cawing of a solitary crow, flying at some 
distance. The pond is one bright, flat spread, without a ripple — 
a vast Claude Lorraine glass, in which I study the sky, the light, 
the leafless trees, and an occasional crow, with flapping wings, 
flying overhead. The brown fields have a few white patches of 
snow left. 

Feb. p. — After an hour's ramble, now retreating, resting, sit- 
ting close by the pond, in a warm nook, writing this, shelter' d 
from the breeze, just before noon. The emotional aspects and 
influences of Nature ! I, too, like the rest, feel these modern 
tendencies (from all the prevailing intellections, literature and 
poems,) to turn everything to pathos, ennui, morbidity, dissatis- 
faction, death. Yet how clear it is to me that those are not the 
born results, influences of Nature at all, but of one's own dis- 
torted, sick or silly soul. Here, amid this wild, free scene, how 
healthy, how joyous, how clean and vigorous and sweet ! 

Mid-afternoon. — One of my nooks is south of the barn, and 
here I am sitting now, on a log, still basking in the sun, shielded 
from the wind. Near me are the cattle, feeding on corn-stalks. 
Occasionally a cow or the young bull (how handsome and bold 
he is !) scratches and munches the far end of the log on which I 
sit. The fresh milky odor is quite perceptible, also the perfume 
of hay from the barn. The perpetual rustle of dry corn-stalks, 
the low sough of the wind round the barn gables, the grunting 
of pigs, the distant whistle of a locomotive, and occasional crow- 
ing of chanticleers, are the sounds. 

Feb. 19. — Cold and sharp last night— clear and not much 
wind — the full moon shining, and a fine spread of constellations 
and little and big stars — Sirius very bright* rising early, preceded 
by many-orb'd Orion, glittering, vast, sworded, and chasing with 
his dog. The earth hard frozen, and a stiff glare of ice over the 
pond. Attracted by the calm splendor of the night, I attempted 
a short walk, but was driven back by the cold. Too -severe for 
me also at 9 o'clock, when I came out this morning, so I turn'd 
back again. But now, near noon, I have walk'd down the lane, 
basking all the way in the sun (this farm has a pleasant southerly 
exposure,) and here I am, seated under the lee of a bank, close 
by the water. There are blue-birds already flying about, and I 


hear much chirping and twittering and two or three real songs, 
sustain'd quite awhile, in the mid-day brilliance and warmth. 
(There ! that is a true carol, coming out boldly and repeatedly, 
as if the singer meant it.) Then as the noon strengthens, the 
reedy trill of the robin — to my ear the most cheering of bird- 
notes. At intervals, like bars and breaks (out of the low murmur 
that in any scene, however quiet, is never entirely absent to a 
delicate ear,) the occasional crunch and cracking of the ice-glare 
congeal'd over the creek, as it gives way to the sunbeams — some- 
times with low sigh — sometimes with indignant, obstinate tug 
and snort. 

(Robert Burns says in one of his letters : " There is scarcely 
any earthly object gives me more — I do not know if I should 
call it pleasure — but something which exalts me — something 
which enraptures me — than to walk in the shelter'd side of a 
wood in a cloudy winter day, and hear the stormy wind howling 
among the trees, and raving over the plain. It is my best season 
of devotion." Some of his most characteristic poems were com- 
posed in such scenes and seasons.) 

March 16. — Fine, clear, dazzling morning, the sun an hour 
high, the air just tart enough. What a stamp in advance my 
whole day receives from the song of that meadow lark perch' d 
on a fence-stake twenty rods distant ! Two or three liquid- 
simple notes, repeated at intervals, full of careless happiness and 
hope. With its peculiar shimmering-slow progress and rapid- 
noiseless action of the wings, it flies on a ways, lights on another 
stake, and so on to another, shimmering and singing many 


May 6, 5 P. M. — This is the hour for strange effects in light 
and shade — enough to make a colorist go delirious — long spokes 
of molten silver sent horizontallv through the trees (now in their 
brightest tenderest green,) each leaf and branch of endless foli- 
age a lit-up miracle, then lying all prone on the youthful-ripe, in- 
terminable grass, and giving the blades not only aggregate but 
individual splendor, in ways unknown to any other hour. I have 
particular spots where I get these effects in their perfection. One 
broad splash lies on the water, with many a rippling twinkle, 
offset by the rapidly deepening black-green murky-transparent 
shadows behind, and at intervals all along the banks. These, 
with great shafts of horizontal fire thrown among the trees and 
along the grass as the sun lowers, give effects more and more 
peculiar, more and more superb, unearthly, rich and dazzling. 



June 2. — This is the fourth day of a dark northeast storm, wind 
and rain. Day before yesterday was my birthday. I have now 
enter'd on my 6oth year. Every day of the storm, protected 
by overshoes and a waterproof blanket, I regularly come down 
to the pond, and ensconce myself under the lee of the great oak ; 
I am here now writing these lines. The dark smoke-color' d 
clouds roll in furious silence athwart the sky; the soft green 
leaves dangle all round me ; the wind steadily keeps up its hoarse, 
soothing music over my head — Nature's mighty whisper. Seated 
here in solitude I have been musing over my life — connecting 
events, dates, as links of a chain, neither sadly nor cheerily, but 
somehow, to-day here under the oak, in the rain, in an unusually 
matter-of-fact spirit. 

But my great oak — sturdy, vital, green — five feet thick at the 
butt. I sit a great deal near or under him. Then the tulip tree 
near by — the Apollo of the woods — tall and graceful, yet robust and 
sinewy, inimitable in hang of foliage and throwing-out of limb ; 
as if the beauteous, vital, leafy creature could walk, if it only 
would. (I had a sort of dream-trance the other day, in which I 
saw my favorite trees step out and promenade up, down and 
around, very curiously — with a whisper from one, leaning down 
as he pass'd me, We do all this on the present occasion, exceptionally, 
just for you. .) 


July jo 7 , 4th, 5I/1. — Clear, hot, favorable weather — has been a 
good summer — the growth of clover and grass now generally 
mow'd. The familiar delicious perfume fills the barns and lanes. 
As you go along you see the fields of grayish white slightly 
tinged with yellow, the loosely stack'd grain, the slow-moving 
wagons passing, and farmers in the fields with stout boys pitch- 
ing and loading the sheaves. The corn is about beginning to 
tassel. All over v the middle and southern states the spear-shaped 
battalia, multitudinous, curving, flaunting — long, glossy, dark- 
green plumes for the great horseman, earth. I hear the cheery 
notes of my old acquaintance Tommy quail ; but too late for the 
whip-poor-will, (though I heard one solitary lingerer night before 
last.) I watch the broad majestic flight of a turkey-buzzard, 
sometimes high up, sometimes low enough to see the lines of his 
form, even his spread quills, in relief against the sky. Once or 
twice lately I have seen an eagle here at early candle-light flying 


June 15. — To-day I noticed a new large bird, size of a nearly 
grown hen — a haughty, white-bodied dark-wing' d hawk — I sup- 


pose a hawk from his bill and general look — only he had a clear, 
loud, quite musical, sort of bell-like call, which he repeated 
again and again, at intervals, from a lofty dead tree-top, over- 
hanging the water. Sat there a long time, and I on the opposite 
bank watching him. Then he darted down, skimming pretty 
close to the stream — rose slowly, a magnificent sight, and sail'd 
with steady wide-spread wings, no flapping at all, up and down 
the pond two or three times, near me, in circles in clear sight, as 
if for my delectation. Once he came quite close over my head ; 
I saw plainly his hook'd bill and hard restless eyes. 

How much music (wild, simple, savage, doubtless, but so tart- 
sweet,) there is in mere whistling. It is four-fifths of the utter- 
ance of birds. There are all sorts and styles. For the last half- 
hour, now, while I have been sitting here, some feather'd fellow 
away off in the bushes has been repeating over and over again 
what I may call a kind of throbbing whistle. And now a bird 
about the robin size has just appear' d, all mulberry red, flitting 
among the bushes — head, wings, body, deep red, not very bright 
— no song, as I have heard. 4 o'clock : There is a real concert 
going on around me — a dozen different birds pitching in with a 
will. There have been occasional rains, and the growths all 
show its vivifying influences. As I finish this, seated on a log 
close by the pond-edge, much chirping and trilling in the dis- 
tance, and a feather'd recluse in the woods near by is singing 
deliciously — not many notes, but full of music of almost human 
sympathy — continuing for a long, long while. 


Aug. 22. — Not a human being, and hardly the evidence of one, 
in sight. After my brief semi-daily bath, I sit here for a bit, the 
brook musically brawling, to the chromatic tones of a fretful 
cat-bird somewhere off in the bushes. On my walk hither two 
hours since, through fields and the old lane, I stopt to view, now 
the sky, now the mile-off woods on the hill, and now the apple 
orchards. What a contrast from New York's or Philadelphia's 
streets ! Everywhere great patches of dingy-blossom'd horse- 
mint wafting a spicy odor through the air, (especially evenings.) 
Everywhere the flowering boneset, and the rose-bloom of the 
wild bean. 


July 14. — My two kingfishers still haunt the pond. In the 
bright sun and breeze and perfect temperature of to-day, noon, I 
am sitting here by one of the gurgling brooks, dipping a French 
water-pen in the limpid crystal, and using it to write these lines, 


again watching the feather'd twain, as they fly and sport athwart 
the water, so close, almost touching into its surface. Indeed there 
seem to be three of us. For nearly an hour I indolently look 
and join them while they dart and turn and take their airy gam- 
bols, sometimes far up the creek disappearing for a few moments, 
and then surely returning again, and performing most of their 
flight within sight of me, as if they knew I appreciated and ab- 
sorb' d their vitality, spirituality, faithfulness, and the rapid, van- 
ishing, delicate lines of moving yet quiet electricity they draw 
for me across the spread of the grass, the trees, and the blue sky. 
While the brook babbles, babbles, and the shadows of the boughs 
dapple in the sunshine around me, and the cool west by-nor'- 
west wind faintly soughs in the thick bushes and tree tops. 

Among the objects of beauty and interest now beginning to 
appear quite plentifully in this secluded spot, I notice the hum- 
ming-bird, the dragon-fly with its wings of slate-color'd gauze, 
and many varieties of beautiful and plain butterflies, idly flap- 
ping among the plants and wild posies. The mullein has shot 
up out of its nest of broad leaves, to a tall stalk towering some- 
times five or six feet high, now studded with knobs of golden 
blossoms. The milk-weed, (I see a great gorgeous creature of 
gamboge and black lighting on one as I write,) is in flower, with 
its delicate red fringe ; and there are profuse clusters of a feathery 
blossom waving in the wind on taper stems. I see lots of these 
and much else in every direction, as I saunter or sit^ For the 
last half hour a bird has persistently kept up a simple, sweet, 
melodious song, from the bushes. (I have a positive conviction 
that some of these birds sing, and others fly and flirt about here, 
for my especial benefit.) 


New York City. — Came on from West Philadelphia, June 13, 
in the 2 p. m. train to Jersey city, and so across and to my friends, 
Mr. and Mrs. J. H. J., and their large house, large family (and 
large hearts,) amid which I feel at home, at peace — away up on 
Fifth avenue, near Eighty-sixth street, quiet, breezy, overlook- 
ing the dense woody fringe of the park — plenty of space and 
sky, birds chirping, and air comparatively fresh and odorless. 
Two hours before starting, saw the announcement of William 
Cullen Bryant's funeral, and felt a strong desire to attend. I had 
known Mr. Bryant over thirty years ago, and he had been mark- 
edly kind to me. Off and on, along that time for years as they 
pass'd, we met and chatted together. I thought him very socia- 
ble in his way, and a man to become attach'd to. We were 
both walkers, and when I work'd in Brooklyn he several times 



came over, middle of afternoons, and we took rambles miles long, 
till dark, out towards Bedford or Flatbush, in company. On 
these occasions he gave me clear accounts of scenes in Europe — 
the cities, looks, architecture, art, especially Italy — where he had 
travel'd a good deal. 

June 14. — The Funeral. — And so the good, stainless, noble 
old citizen and poet lies in the closed coffin there — and this is 
his funeral. A solemn, impressive, simple scene, to spirit and 
senses. The remarkable gathering of gray heads, celebrities — 
the finely render'd anthem, and other music — the church, dim 
even now at approaching noon, in its light from the mellow- 
stain'd windows — the pronounc'd eulogy on the bard who loved 
Nature so fondly, and sung so well her shows and seasons — ending 
with these appropriate well-known lines : 

I gazed upon the glorious sky, 

And the green mountains round, 
And thought that when I came to lie 

At rest within the ground, 
'Twere pleasant that in flowery June, 
When brooks send up a joyous tune, 

And groves a cheerful sound, 
The sexton's hand, my grave to make, 
The rich green mountain turf should break. 

June 20th. — On the " Mary Powell," enjoy' d everything beyond 
precedent. The delicious tender summer day, just warm enough 
— the constantly changing but ever beautiful panorama on both 
sides of the river — (went up near a hundred miles) — the high 
straight walls of the. stony Palisades — beautiful Yonkers, and 
beautiful Irvington — the never-ending hills, mostly in rounded 
lines, swathed with verdure, — the distant turns, like great 
shoulders in blue veils — the frequent gray and brown of the tall- 
rising rocks — the river itself, now narrowing, now expanding — 
the white sails of the many sloops, yachts, &c, some near, some 
in the distance — the rapid succession of handsome villages and 
cities, (our boat is a swift traveler, and makes few stops) — the 
Race — picturesque West Point, and indeed all along — the costly 
and often turreted mansions forever showing in some cheery 
light color, through the woods — make up the scene. 

June 21, — Here I am, on the west bank of the Hudson, 80 
miles north of New York, near Esopus, at the handsome, roomy, 
honeysuckle-and-rose-embower'd cottage of John Burroughs. 
The place, the perfect June days and nights, (leaning toward 
crisp and cool,) the hospitality of J. and Mrs. B., the air, the 



fruit, (especially my favorite dish, currants and raspberries, 
mixed, sugar' d, fresh and ripe from the bushes — I pick 'em my- 
self) — the room I occupy at night, the perfect bed, the window- 
giving an ample view of the Hudson and the opposite shores, so 
wonderful toward sunset, and the rolling music of the RR. 
trains, far over there — the peaceful rest — the early Venus-her- 
alded dawn — the noiseless splash of sunrise, the light and warmth 
indescribably glorious, in which, (soon as the sun is well up,) I 
have a capital rubbing and rasping with the flesh-brush — with an 
extra scour on the back by Al. J., who is here with us — all in- 
spiriting my invalid frame with new life, for the day. Then, 
after some whiffs of morning air, the delicious coffee of Mrs. B., 
with the cream, strawberries, and many substantial, for break- 


June 22. — This afternoon we went out (J. B., Al. and I) on 
quite a drive around the country. The scenery, the perpetual 
stone fences, (some venerable old fellows, dark-spotted with 
lichens) — the many fine locust-trees — the runs of brawling water, 
often over descents of rock — these, and lots else. It is lucky the 
roads are first-rate here, (as they are,) for it is up or down hill 
everywhere, and sometimes steep enough. B. has a tip-top 
horse, strong, young, and both gentle and fast. There is a great 
deal of waste land and hills on the river edge of Ulster county, 
with a wonderful luxuriance of wild flowers and bushes — and it 
seems to me I never saw more vitality of trees — eloquent hem- 
locks, plenty of locusts and fine maples, and the balm of Gilead, 
giving out aroma. In the fields and along the road-sides un- 
usual crops of the tall-stemm'd wild daisy, white as milk and 
yellow as gold. 

We pass'd quite a number of tramps, singly or in couples — 
one squad, a family in a rickety one-horse wagon, with some 
baskets evidently their work and trade — the man seated on a low 
board, in front, driving — the gauntish woman by his side, with 
a baby well bundled in her arms, its little red feet and lower legs 
sticking out right towards us as we pass'd — and in the wagon be- 
hind, we saw two (or three) crouching little children. It was a 
queer, taking, rather sad picture. If I had been alone and on 
foot, I should have stopp'd and held confab. But on our return 
nearly two hours afterward, we found them a ways further along 
the same road, in a lonesome open^ spot, haul'd aside, unhitch'd, 
and evidently going to camp for the night. The freed horse was 
not far off, quietly cropping the grass. The man was busy at the 
wagon, the boy had gather' d some dry wood, and was making a 
fire — and as we went a little further we met the woman afoot. I 


could not see her face, in its great sun-bonnet, but somehow her 
figure and gait told misery, terror, destitution. She had the rag- 
bundled, half-starv'd infant still in her arms, and in her hands 
held two or three baskets, which she had evidently taken to the 
next house for sale. A little barefoot five-year old girl-child, 
with fine eyes, trotted behind her, clutching her gown. We 
stopp'd, asking about the baskets, which we bought. As we 
paid the money, she kept her face hidden in the recesses of her 
bonnet. Then as we started, and stopp'd again, Al., (whose 
sympathies were evidently arous'd,) went back to the camping 
group to get another basket. He caught a look of her face, and 
talk'd with her a little. Eyes, voice and manner were those of a 
corpse, animated by electricity. She was quite young — the man 
she was traveling with, middle-aged. Poor woman — what story 
was it, out of her fortunes, to account for that inexpressibly scared 
way, those glassy eyes, and that hollow voice ? 


June 25. — Returned to New York last night. Out to-day on 
the waters for a sail in the wide bay, southeast of Staten island — a 
rough, tossing ride, and a free sight — the long stretch of Sandy 
Hook, the highlands of Navesink, and the many vessels outward 
and inward bound. We came up through the midst of all, in the 
full sun. I especially enjoy'd the last hour or two. A moderate 
sea-breeze had set in ; yet over the city, and the waters adjacent, 
was a thin haze, concealing nothing, only adding to the beauty. 
From my point of view, as I write amid the soft breeze, with a 
sea-temperature, surely nothing on earth of its kind can go be- 
yond this show. To the left the North river with its far vista- 
nearer, three or four war-ships, anchor'd peacefully — the Jersey 
side, the banks of Weehawken, the Palisades, and the gradually 
receding blue, lost in the distance — to the right the East river — 
the mast-hemm'd shores — the grand obelisk-like towers of the 
bridge, one on either side, in haze, yet plainly defin'd, giant 
brothers twain, throwing free graceful interlinking loops high 
across the tumbled tumultuous current below — (the tide is just 
changing to its ebb) — the broad water-spread everywhere 
crowded — no, not crowded, but thick as stars in the sky — with 
all sorts and sizes of sail and steam vessels, plying ferry-boats, 
arriving and departing coasters, great ocean Dons, iron-black, 
modern, magnificent in size and power, fill'd with their incalcu- 
lable value of human life and precious merchandise — with here 
and there, above all, those daring, careening things of grace and 
wonder, those white and shaded swift-darting fish-birds, (I won- 
der if shore or sea elsewhere can outvie them,) ever with their 



slanting spars, and fierce, pure, hawk-like beauty and motion — 
first-class New York sloop or schooner yachts, sailing, this fine 
day, the free sea in a good wind. And rising out of the midst, 
tall-topt, ship-hemm'd, modern, American, yet strangely oriental, 
V-shaped Manhattan, with its compact mass, its spires, its cloud- 
touching edifices group'd at the centre — the green of the trees, 
and all the white, brown and gray of the architecture well blended, 
as I see it, under a miracle of limpid sky, delicious light of 
heaven above, and June haze on the surface below. 


The general subjective view of New York and Brooklyn — (will 
not the time hasten when the two shall be municipally united in 
one, and named Manhattan ?) — what I may call the human inte- 
rior and exterior of these great seething oceanic populations, as 
I get it in this visit, is to me best of all. After an absence of 
many years, (I went away at the outbreak of the secession war, 
and have never been back to stay since,) again I resume with 
curiosity the crowds, the streets I knew so well, Broadway, the 
ferries, the west side of the city, democratic Bowery — human 
appearances and manners as seen in all these, and along the 
wharves, and in the perpetual travel of the horse-cars, or the 
crowded excursion steamers, or in Wall and Nassau streets by 
day — in the places of amusement at night — bubbling and whirl- 
ing and moving like its own environment of waters — endless 
humanity in all phases — Brooklyn also — taken in for the last 
three weeks. No need to specify minutely — enough to say that 
(making all allowances for the shadows and side-streaks of a 
million-headed-city) the brief total of the impressions, the 
human qualities, of these vast cities, is to me comforting, even 
heroic, beyond statement. Alertness, generally fine physique, 
clear eyes that look straight at you, a singular combination of 
reticence and self-possession, with good nature and friendli- 
ness — a prevailing range of according manners, taste and in- 
tellect, surely beyond any elsewhere upon earth — and a palpa- 
ble outcropping of that personal comradeship I look forward to 
as the subtlest, strongest future hold of this many-item'd Union — ■ 
are not only constantly visible here in these mighty channels of 
men, but they form the rule and average. To-day, I should say — 
defiant of cynics and pessimists, and with a full knowledge of 
all their exceptions — an appreciative and perceptive study of the 
current humanity of New York gives the directest proof yet of 
successful Democracy, and of the solution of that paradox, the 
eligibility of the free and fully developed individual with the para- 
mount aggregate. In old age, lame and sick, pondering for years 


on many a doubt and danger for this republic of ours — fully 
aware of all that can be said on the other side — I find in this 
visit to New York, and the daily contact and rapport with its 
myriad people, on the scale of the oceans and tides, the best, 
most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken — the grandest 
physical habitat and surroundings of land and water the globe 
affords — namely, Manhattan island and Brooklyn, which the future 
shall join in one city — city of superb democracy, amid superb 


July 22d, 1878. — Living down in the country again. A won- 
derful conjunction of all that goes to make those sometime mira- 
cle-hours after sunset — so near and yet so far. Perfect, or nearly 
perfect days, I notice, are not so very uncommon ; but the com- 
binations that make perfect nights are few, even in a life time. 
We have one of those perfections to-night. Sunset left things 
pretty clear; the larger stars were visible soon as the shades 
allow'd. A while after 8, three or four great black clouds suddenly 
rose, seemingly from different points, and sweeping with broad 
swirls of wind but no thunder, underspread the orbs from view 
everywhere, and indicated a violent heat-storm. But without 
storm, clouds, blackness and all, sped and vanish'd as suddenly 
as they had risen ; and from a little after 9 till n the atmosphere 
and the whole show above were in that state of exceptional clear- 
ness and glory just alluded to. In the northwest turned the Great 
Dipper with its pointers round the Cynosure. A little south of 
east the constellation of the Scorpion was fully up, with red An- 
tares glowing in its neck; while dominating, majestic Jupiter 
swam, an hour and a half risen, in the east — (no moon till after 
11.) A large part of the sky seem'd just laid in great splashes 
of phosphorus. You could look deeper in, farther through, than 
usual ; the orbs thick as heads of wheat in a field. Not that there 
was any special brilliancy either — nothing near as sharp as I have 
seen of keen winter nights, but a curious general luminousness 
throughout to sight, sense, and soul. The latter had much to do 
with it. (I am convinced there are hours of Nature, especially 
of the atmosphere, mornings and evenings, address' d to the soul. 
Night transcends, for that purpose, what the proudest day can 
do.) Now, indeed, if never before, the heavens declared the 
glory of God. It was to the full the sky of the Bible, of Arabia, 
of the prophets, and of the oldest poems. There, in abstraction 
and stillness, (I had gone off by myself to absorb the scene, to 
have the spell unbroken,) the copiousness, the removedness, vi- 
tality, loose-clear-crowdedness, of that stellar concave spreading 
overhead, softly absorb' d into me, rising so free, interminably 



high, stretching east, west, north, south — and I, though but a 
point in the centre below, embodying all. 

As if for the first time, indeed, creation noiselessly sank into 
and through me its placid and untellable lesson, beyond — O, so 
infinitely beyond ! — anything from art, books, sermons, or from 
science, old or new. The spirit's hour — religion's hour — the 
visible suggestion of God in space and time — now once definitely 
indicated, if never again. The untold pointed at — the heavens 
all paved with it. The Milky Way, as if some superhuman sym- 
phony, some ode of universal vagueness, disdaining syllable and 
sound — a flashing glance of Deity, address'd to the soul. All 
silently — the indescribable night and stars — far off and silently. 

The Dawn. — July 2j. — This morning, between one and two 
hours before sunrise, a spectacle wrought on the same back- 
ground, yet of quite different beauty and meaning. The moon 
well up in the heavens, and past her half, is shining brightly— 
the air and sky of that cynical-clear, Minerva-like quality, virgin 
cool — not the weight of sentiment or mystery, or passion's ec- 
stasy indefinable — not the religious sense, the varied All, distill' d 
and sublimated into one, of the night just described. Every star 
now clear-cut, showing for just what it is, there in the colorless 
ether. The character of the heralded morning, ineffably sweet 
and fresh and limpid, but for the esthetic sense alone, and for 
purity without sentiment. I have itemized the night — but dare 
I attempt the cloudless dawn ? (What subtle tie is this between 
one's soul and the break of day? Alike, and yet no two nights 
or morning shows ever exactly alike.) Preceded by an immense 
star, almost unearthly in its effusion of white splendor, with two 
or three long unequal spoke-rays of diamond radiance, shedding 
down through the fresh morning air below — an hour of this, and 
then the sunrise. 

The East. — What a subject for a poem ! Indeed, where else 
a more pregnant, more splendid one ? Where one more idealistic- 
real, more subtle, more sensuous-delicate? The East, answering 
all lands, all ages, peoples ; touching all senses, here, immediate, 
now — and yet so indescribably far off — such retrospect ! The East 
— long-stretching — so losing itself — the orient, the gardens of 
Asia, the womb of history and song — forth-issuing all those 
strange, dim cavalcades — 

Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion, 
Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments, 
With sunburnt visage, intense soul and glittering eyes. 

Always the East — old, how incalculably old ! And yet here 
the same — ours yet, fresh as a rose, to every morning, every life, 
to-day — and always will be. 


Sept. 17. — Another presentation — same theme — just before 
sunrise again, (a favorite hour with me.) The clear gray sky, a 
faint glow in the dull liver-color of the east, the cool fresh odor 
and the moisture — the cattle and horses off there grazing in the 
fields — the star Venus again, two hours high. For sounds, the 
chirping of crickets in the grass, the clarion of chanticleer, and 
the distant cawing of an early crow. Quietly over the dense 
fringe of cedars and pines rises that dazzling, red, transparent 
disk of flame, and the low sheets of white vapor roll and roll 
into dissolution. 

The Moon. — May 18. — I went to bed early last night, but 
found myself waked shortly after 12, and, turning awhile sleepless 
and mentally feverish, I rose, dress'd myself, sallied forth and 
walk'd down the lane. The full moon, some three or four hours 
up — a sprinkle of light and less-light clouds just lazily moving — 
Jupiter an hour high in the east, and here and there throughout 
the heavens a random star appearing and disappearing. So, beau- 
tifully veil'd and varied — the air, with that early-summer perfume, 
not at all damp or raw — at times Luna languidly emerging in 
richest brightness for minutes, and then partially envelop'd again. 
Far off a whip-poor-will plied his notes incessantly. It was that 
silent time between 1 and 3. 

The rare nocturnal scene, how soon it sooth'd and pacified me ! 
Is there not something about the moon, some relation or re- 
minder, which no poem or literature has yet caught ? (In very 
old and primitive ballads I have come across lines or asides that 
suggest it.) After a while the clouds mostly clear' d, and as the 
moon swam on, she carried, shimmering and shifting, delicate 
color-effects of pellucid green and tawny vapor. Let me con- 
clude this part with an extract, (some writer in the "Tribune," 
May 16, 1878:) 

No one ever gets tired of the moon. Goddess that she is by dower of her 
eternal beauty, she is a true woman by her tact — knows the charm of being 
seldom seen, of coming by surprise and staying but a little while ; never 
wears the same dress two nights running, nor all night the same way ; com- 
mends herself to the matter-of-fact people by her usefulness, and makes her 
uselessness adored by poets, artists, and all lovers in all lands ; lends herself 
to every symbolism and to every emblem ; is Diana's bow and Venus's mir- 
ror and Mary's throne ; is a sickle, a scarf, an eyebrow, his face or her face, 
as look'd at by her or by him; is the madman's hell, the poet's heaven, the 
baby's toy, the philosopher's study ; and while her admirers follow her foot- 
steps, and hang on her lovely looks, she knows how to keep her woman's 
secret — her other side — unguess'd and unguessable. 

Furthermore. — February ip, 1880. — Just before 10 p. M. cold 
and entirely clear again, the show overhead, bearing southwest, 
of wonderful and crowded magnificence. The moon in her third 


quarter — the clusters of the Hyades and Pleiades, with the planet 
Mars between — in full crossing sprawl in the sky the great Egyp- 
tian X, (Sirius, Procyon, and the main stars in the constellations 
of the Ship, the Dove, and of Orion ; ) just north of east Bootes, and 
in his knee Arcturus, an hour high, mounting the heaven, ambi- 
tiously large and sparkling, as if he meant to challenge with Sirius 
the stellar supremacy. 

With the sentiment of the stars and moon such nights I get all 
the free margins and indefiniteness of music or poetry, fused in 
geometry's utmost exactness. 


Aug. 4. — A pretty sight ! Where I sit in the shade — a warm 
day, the sun shining from cloudless skies, the forenoon well ad- 
vanc'd — I look over a ten-acre field of luxuriant clover-hay, (the 
second crop) — the livid-ripe red blossoms and dabs of August 
brown thickly spotting the prevailing dark-green. Over all flut- 
ter myriads of light-yellow butterflies, mostly skimming along 
the surface, dipping and oscillating, giving a curious animation 
to the scene. The beautiful, spiritual insects ! straw-color'd 
Psyches ! Occasionally one of them leaves his mates, and mounts, 
perhaps spirally, perhaps in a straight line in the air, fluttering 
up, up, till literally out of sight. In the lane as I came along 
just now I noticed one spot, ten feet square or so, where more 
than a hundred had collected, holding a revel, a gyration-dance, 
or butterfly good-time, winding and circling, down and across, but 
always keeping within the limits. The little creatures have come 
out all of a sudden the last few days, and are now very plentiful. As 
I sit outdoors, or walk, I hardly look around without somewhere 
seeing two (always two) fluttering through the air in amorous dal- 
liance. Then their inimitable color, their fragility, peculiar 
motion — and that strange, frequent way of one leaving the crowd 
and mounting up, up in the free ether, and apparently never re- 
turning. As I look over the field, these yellow-wings everywhere 
mildly sparkling, many snowy blossoms of the wild carrot grace- 
fully bending on their tall and taper stems — while for sounds, the 
distant guttural screech of a flock of guinea-hens comes shrilly 
yet somehow musically to my ears. And now a faint growl of 
heat-thunder in the north — and ever the low rising and falling 
wind-purr from the tops of the maples and willows. 

Aug. 20. — Butterflies and butterflies, (taking the place of the 
bumble-bees of three months since, who have quite disappear'd,) 
continue to flit to and fro, all sorts, white, yellow, brown, pur- 
ple — now and then some gorgeous fellow flashing lazily by on 
wings like artists' palettes dabb'd with every color. Over the 



breast of the pond I notice many white ones, crossing, pursuing 
their idle capricious flight. Near where I sit grows a tall-stemm'd 
weed topt with a profusion of rich scarlet blossoms, on which'the 
snowy insects alight and dally, sometimes four or five of them at 
a time. By-and-by a humming-bird visits the same, and I watch 
him coming and going, daintily balancing and shimmering 
about. These white butterflies give new beautiful contrasts to 
the pure greens of the August foliage, (we have had some co- 
pious rains lately,) and over the glistening bronze of the pond- 
surface. You can tame even such insects ; I have one big and 
handsome moth down here, knows and comes to me, likes me to 
hold him up on my extended hand. 

Another -Day, later. — A grand twelve-acre field of ripe cabbages 
with their prevailing hue of malachite green, and floating -flying 
over and among them in all directions myriads of these same 
white butterflies. As I came up the lane to-day I saw a living 
globe of the same, two to three feet in diameter, many scores 
cluster'd together and rolling along in the air, adhering to their 
ball-shape, six or eight feet above the ground. 

Aug. 25, 9-10 a. m. — I sit by the edge of the pond, every- 
thing quiet, the broad polish' d surface spread before me — the 
blue of the heavens and the white clouds reflected from it — and 
flitting across, now and then, the reflection of some flying bird. 
Last night I was down here with a friend till after midnight; 
everything a miracle of splendor — the glory of the stars, and the 
completely rounded moon — the passing clouds, silver and lumi- 
nous-tawny — now and then masses of vapory illuminated scud — 
and silently by my side my dear friend. The shades of the trees, 
and patches of moonlight on the grass — the softly blowing 
breeze, and just-palpable odor of the neighboring ripening corn 
— the indolent and spiritual night, inexpressibly rich, tender, 
suggestive — something altogether to filter through one's soul, 
and nourish and feed and soothe the memory long afterwards. 

This has been and is yet a great season for wild flowers ; oceans 
of them line the roads through the woods, border the edges of 
the water-runlets, grow all along the old fences, and are scatter'd 
in profusion over the fields. An eight-petal'd blossom of gold- 
yellow, clear and bright, with a brown tuft in the middle, nearly 
as large as a silver half-dollar, is very common ; yesterday on a 
long drive I noticed it thickly lining the borders of the brooks 
everywhere. Then there is a beautiful weed cover'd with blue 
flowers, (the blue of the old Chinese teacups treasur'd by our 



grand-aunts,) I am continually stopping to admire — a little 
larger than a dime, and very plentiful. White, however, is the 
prevailing color. The wild carrot I have spoken of; also the 
fragrant life-everlasting. But there are all hues and beauties, 
especially on the frequent tracts of half-open scrub-oak and dwarf- 
cedar hereabout — wild asters of all colors. Notwithstanding the 
frost-touch the hardy little chaps maintain themselves in all their 
bloom. The tree-leaves, too, some of them are beginning to 
turn yellow or drab or dull green. The deep wine-color of the 
sumachs and gum-trees is already visible, and the straw-color of 
the dog-wood and beech. Let me give the names of some of 
these perennial blossoms and friendly weeds I have made acquaint- 
ance with hereabout one season or another in my walks : 

wild azalea, 

wild honeysuckle, 

wild roses, 

golden rod, 


early crocus, 

sweet flag, (great patches of it,) 

creeper, trumpet-flower, 

scented marjoram, 


Solomon's seal, 

sweet balm, 

mint, (great plenty,) 

wild geranium, 

wild heliotrope, 





wild pea, 









swamp magnolia, 


wild daisy, (plenty,) 

wild chrysanthemum. 


The foregoing reminds me of something. As the individuali- 
ties I would mainly portray have certainly been slighted by folks 
who make pictures, volumes, poems, out of them — as a faint 
testimonial of my own gratitude for many hours of peace and 
comfort in half-sickness, (and not by any means sure but they 
will somehow get wind of the compliment,) I hereby dedicate the 
last half of these Specimen Days to the 





mulleins, tansy, peppermint, 

moths (great and little, some 

splendid fellows,) 
glow-worms, (swarming millions 

of them indescribably strange 

and beautiful at night over the 

pond and creek,) 

wasps and hornets, 
cat birds (and all other birds,) 

tulip-trees (and all other trees,) 
and to the spots and memories of 
those days, and of the creek. 




April 5, 1879. — With the return of spring to the skies, airs, 
waters of the Delaware, return the sea-gulls. I never tire of watch- 
ing their broad and easy flight, in spirals, or as they oscillate with 
slow unflapping wings, or look down with curved beak, or dipping 
to the water after food. The crows, plenty enough all through 
the winter, have vanish'd with the ice. Not one of them now to 
be seen. The steamboats have again come forth — bustling up, 
handsome, freshly painted, for summer work — the Columbia, the 
Edwin Forrest, (the Republic not yet out,) the Reybold, the 
Nelly White, the Twilight, the Ariel, the Warner, the Perry, the 
Taggart, the Jersey Blue — even the hulky old Trenton — not for- 
getting those saucy little bull-pups of the current, the steamtugs. 

But let me bunch and catalogue the affair — the river itself, all 
the way from the sea — cape Island on one side and Henlopen 
light on the other — up the broad bay north, and so to Philadel- 
phia, and on further to Trenton ; — the sights I am most familiar 
with, (as I live a good part of the time in Camden, I. view mat- 
ters from that outlook) — the great arrogant, black, full-freighted 
ocean steamers, inward or outward bound — the ample width 
here between the two cities, intersected by Windmill island — an 
occasional man-of-war, sometimes a foreigner, at anchor, with 
her guns and port-holes, and the boats, and the brown-faced 
sailors, and the regular oar-strokes, and the gay crowds of " visit- 
ing day" — the frequent large and handsome three-masted schoon- 
ers, (a favorite style of marine build, hereabout of late years,) 
some of them new and very jaunty, with their white-gray sails 
and yellow pine spars — the sloops dashing along in a fair wind — 
(I see one now, coming up, under broad canvas, her gaff-topsail 
shining in the sun, high and picturesque — what a thing of beauty 
amid the sky and waters !) — the crowded wharf-slips along the 
city — the flags of different nationalities, the sturdy English cross 
on its ground of blood, the French tricolor, the banner of the 
great North German empire, and the Italian and the Spanish 
colors — sometimes, of an afternoon, the whole scene enliven'd 
by a fleet of yachts, in a half calm, lazily returning from a race 
down at Gloucester; — the neat, rakish, revenue steamer " Hamil- 
ton" in mid-stream, with her perpendicular stripes flaunting aft — 
and, turning the eyes north, the long ribands of fleecy-white 
steam, or dingy-black smoke, stretching far, fan-shaped, slanting 
diagonally across from the Kensington or Richmond shores, in 
the west-by-south-west wind. 

Then the Camden ferry. What exhilaration, change, people, 
business, by day. What soothing, silent, wondrous hours, at 



night, crossing on the boat, most all to myself — pacing the deck, 
alone, forward or aft. What communion with the waters, the 
air, the exquisite chiaroscuro — the sky and stars, that speak no 
word, nothing to the intellect, yet so eloquent, so communica- 
tive to the soul. And the ferry men — little they know how much 
they have been to me, day and night — how many spells of list- 
lessness, ennui, debility, they and their hardy ways have dis- 
pell'd. And the pilots — captains Hand, Walton, and Giberson 
by day, and captain Olive at night ; Eugene Crosby, with his 
strong young arm so often supporting, circling, convoying me 
over the gaps of the bridge, through impediments, safely aboard. 
Indeed all my ferry friends — captain Frazee the superintendent, 
Lindell, Hiskey, Fred Rauch, Price, Watson, and a dozen more. 
And the ferry itself, with its queer scenes — sometimes children 
suddenly born in the waiting-houses (an actual fact — and more 
than once) — sometimes a masquerade party, going over at night, 
with a band of music, dancing and whirling like mad on the 
broad deck, in their fantastic dresses : sometimes the astronomer, 
Mr. Whitall, (who posts me up in points about the stars by a 
living lesson there and then, and answering every question) — 
sometimes a prolific family group, eight, nine, ten, even twelve ! 
(Yesterday, as I cross'd, a mother, father, and eight children, 
waiting in the ferry-house, bound westward somewhere.) 

I have mention' d the crows. I always watch them from the 
boats. They play quite a part in the winter scenes on the river, 
by day. Their black splatches are seen in relief against the snow 
and ice everywhere at that season — sometimes flying and flap- 
ping — sometimes on little or larger cakes, sailing up or down the 
stream. One day the river was mostly clear — only a single long 
ridge of broken ice making a narrow stripe by itself, running 
along down the current for over a mile, quite rapidly. On this 
white stripe the crows were congregated, hundreds of them — a 
funny procession — (" half mourning " was the comment of some 

Then the reception room, for passengers waiting — life illus- 
trated thoroughly. Take a March picture I jotted there two or 
three weeks since. Afternoon, about 3^ o'clock, it begins to 
snow. There has been a matinee performance at the theater 
— from 4% to 5 comes a stream of homeward bound ladies. I 
never knew the spacious room to present a gayer, more lively 
scene — handsome, well-drest Jersey women and girls, scores of 
them, streaming in for nearly an hour — the bright eyes and 
glowing faces, coming in from the air — a sprinkling of snow on 
bonnets or dresses as they enter — the five or ten minutes' wait- 
ing — the chatting and laughing — (women can have capital times 


among themselves, with plenty of wit, lunches, jovial abandon) 
— Lizzie, the pleasant-manner'd waiting-room woman — for 
sound, the bell-taps and steam-signals of the departing boats 
with their rhythmic break and undertone — the domestic pictures, 
mothers with bevies of daughters, (a charming sight) — children, 
countrymen — the railroad men in their blue clothes and caps — 
all the various characters of city and country represented or sug- 
gested. Then outside some belated passenger frantically run- 
ning, jumping after the boat. Towards six o'clock the human 
stream gradually thickening — now a pressure of vehicles, drays, 
piled railroad crates — now a drove of cattle, making quite an ex- 
citement, the drovers with heavy sticks, belaboring the steaming 
sides of the frighten'd brutes. Inside the reception room, busi- 
ness bargains, flirting, love-making, eclaircisseme?its, proposals — 
pleasant, sober-faced Phil coming in with his burden of afternoon 
papers — or Jo, or Charley (who jump'd in the dock last week, 
and saved a stout lady from drowning,) to replenish the stove, 
after clearing it with long crow-bar poker. 

Besides all this "comedy human," the river affords nutri- 
ment of a higher order. Here are some of my memoranda of 
the past winter, just as pencill'd down on the spot. 

A January Night. — Fine trips across the wide Delaware to- 
night. Tide pretty high, and a strong ebb. River, a little after 
8, full of ice, mostly broken, but some large cakes making our 
strong-timber'd steamboat hum and quiver as she strikes them. 
In the clear moonlight they spread, strange, unearthly, silvery, 
faintly glistening, as far as I can see. Bumping, trembling, 
sometimes hissing like a thousand snakes, the tide-procession, as 
we wend with or through it, affording a grand undertone, in 
keeping with the scene. Overhead, the splendor indescribable; 
yet something haughty, almost supercilious, in the night. Never 
did I realize more latent sentiment, almost passion, in those silent 
interminable stars up there. One can understand, such a night, 
why, from the days of the Pharaohs or Job, the dome of heaven, 
sprinkled with planets, has supplied the subtlest, deepest criti- 
cism on human pride, glory, ambition. 

Another Winter Night. — I don't know anything more filling 
than to be on the wide firm deck of a powerful boat, a clear, cool, 
extra-moonlight night, crushing proudly and resistlessly through 
this thick, marbly, glistening ice. The whole river is now spread 
with it — some immense cakes. There is such weirdness about 
the scene — partly the quality of the light, with its tinge of blue, 
the lunar twilight — only the large stars holding their own in the 
radiance of the moon. Temperature sharp, comfortable for mo- 
tion, dry, full of oxygen. But the sense of power — the steady, 


scornful, imperious urge of our strong new engine, as she ploughs 
her way through the big and little cakes. 

Another. — For two hours I cross'd and recrossM, merely for 
pleasure — for a still excitement. Both sky and river went 
through several changes. The first for awhile held two vast fan- 
shaped echelons of light clouds, through which the moon waded, 
now radiating, carrying with her an aureole of tawny transpar- 
ent brown, and now flooding the whole vast with clear vapory 
light-green, through which, as through an illuminated veil, she 
moved with measur'd womanly motion. Then, another trip, the 
heavens would be absolutely clear, and Luna in all her efful- 
gence. The big Dipper in the north, with the double star in the 
handle much plainer than common. Then the sheeny track of 
light in the water, dancing and rippling. Such transformations ; 
such pictures and poems, inimitable. 

Another. — I am studying the stars, under advantages, as I cross 
to-night. (It is late in February, and again extra clear.) High 
toward the west, the Pleiades, tremulous with delicate sparkle, in 
the soft heavens. Aldebaran, leading the V-shaped Hyades — 
and overhead Capella and her kids. Most majestic of all, in 
full display in the high south, Orion, vast-spread, roomy, chief 
histrion of the stage, with his shiny yellow rosette on his shoul- 
der, and his three Kings — and a little to the east, Sirius, calmly 
arrogant, most wondrous single star. Going late ashore, (I 
couldn't give up the beauty and soothingness of the night,) as I 
staid around, or slowly wander'd, I heard the echoing calls of the 
railroad men in the West Jersey depot yard, shifting and switch- 
ing trains, engines, &c. ; amid the general silence otherways, and 
something in the acoustic quality of the air, musical, emotional 
effects, never thought of before. I linger'd long and long, listen- 
ing to them. 

Night of March 18, '/p. — One of the calm, pleasantly cool, 
exquisitely clear and cloudless, early spring nights — the atmos- 
phere again that rare vitreous blue-black, welcom'd by astrono- 
mers. Just at 8, evening, the scene overhead of certainly sol- 
emnest beauty, never surpass' d. Venus nearly down in the west, 
of a size and lustre as if trying to outshow herself, before depart- 
ing. Teeming, maternal orb — I take you again to myself. I am 
reminded of that spring preceding Abraham Lincoln's murder, 
when I, restlessly haunting the Potomac banks, around Washing- 
ton city, watch' d you, off there, aloof, moody as myself: 
As we walk'd up and down in the dark blue so mystic, 
As we walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night, 
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after night, 
As you droop from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the other stars 

all look'd on,) 
As we wander'd together the solemn night. 


With departing Venus, large to the last, and shining even to 
the edge of the horizon, the vast dome presents at this moment, 
such a spectacle ! Mercury was visible just after sunset — a rare 
sight. Arcturus is now risen, just north of east. In calm glory- 
all the stars of Orion hold the place of honor, in meridian, to 
the south — with the Dog-star a little to the left. And now, just 
rising, Spica, late, low, and slightly veiTd. Castor, Regulusand 
the rest, all shining unusually clear, (no Mars or Jupiter or moon 
till morning.) On the edges of the river, ma*ny lamps twinkling 
— with two or three huge chimneys, a couple of miles up, belch- 
ing forth molten, steady flames, volcano-like, illuminating all 
around — and sometimes an electric or calcium, its Dante-Inferno 
gleams, in far shafts, terrible, ghastly-powerful. Of later May 
nights, crossing, I like to watch the fishermen's little buoy-lights 
— so pretty, so dreamy — like corpse candles — undulating delicate 
and lonesome on the surface of the shadowy waters, floating with 
the current. 


Winter relaxing its hold, has already allow'd us a foretaste of 
spring. As I write, yesterday afternoon's softness and bright- 
ness, (after the morning fog, which gave it a better setting, by 
contrast,) show'd Chestnut street — say between Broad and Fourth 
— to more advantage in its various asides, and all its stores, and 
gay-dress'd crowds generally, than for three months past. I took 
a walk there between one and two. Doubtless, there were plenty 
of hard-up folks along the pavements, but nine-tenths of the myr- 
iad-moving human panorama to all appearance seem'd flush, 
well-fed, and fully-provided. At all events it was good to be on 
Chestnut street yesterday. The peddlers on the sidewalk — 
(" sleeve-buttons, three for five cents ") — the handsome little fel- 
low with canary-bird whistles — the cane men, toymen, toothpick 
men — the old woman squatted in a Heap on the cold stone flags, 
with her basket of matches, pins and tape — the young negro 
mother, sitting, begging, with her two little coffee-color'd twins 
on her lap — the beauty of the cramm'd conservatory of rare 
flowers, flaunting reds, yellows, snowy lilies, incredible orchids, 
at the Baldwin mansion near Twelfth street — the show of fine 
poultry, beef, fish, at the restaurants — the china stores, with glass 
and statuettes — the luscious tropical fruits — the street cars plod- 
ding along, with their tintinnabulating bells — the fat, cab-look- 
ing, rapidly driven one-horse vehicles of the post-office, squeez'd 
full of coming or going letter-carriers, so healthy and handsome 
and manly-looking, in their gray uniforms — the costly books, 
pictures, curiosities, in the windows — the gigantic policemen at 


most of the corners — will all be readily remember'd and recog- 
nized as features of this principal avenue of Philadelphia. 
Chestnut street, I have discover'd, is not without individuality, 
and its own points, even when compared with the great prome- 
nade-streets of other cities. I have never been in Europe, but 
acquired years' familiar experience with New York's, (perhaps 
the world's,) great thoroughfare, Broadway, and possess to some 
extent a personal and saunterer's knowledge of St. Charles street 
in New Orleans, Tremont street in Boston, and the broad trot- 
toirs of Pennsylvania avenue in Washington. Of course it is a 
pity that Chestnut were not two or three times wider ; but the 
street, any fine day, shows vividness, motion, variety, not easily 
to be surpass'd. (Sparkling eyes, human faces, magnetism, well- 
dress'd women, ambulating to and fro — with lots of fine things 
in the windows — are they not about the same, the civilized world 
over ?) 

How fast the flitting figures come ! 

The mild, the fierce, the stony face; 
Some bright with thoughtless smiles — and some 

Where secret tears have left their trace. 

A few days ago one of the six-story clothing stores along here 
had the space inside its plate-glass show-window partition 'd into 
a little corral, and litter'd deeply with rich clover and hay, (I 
could smell the odor outside,) on which reposed two magnificent 
fat sheep, full-sized but young — the handsomest creatures of the 
kind I ever saw. I stopp'd long and long, with the crowd, to 
view them — one lying down chewing the cud, and one standing 
up, looking out, with dense-fringed patient eyes. Their wool, 
of a clear tawny color, with streaks of glistening black — alto- 
gether a queer sight amidst that crowded promenade of dandies, 
dollars and drygoods. 


April 23. — Off to New York on a little tour and visit. Leav- 
ing the hospitable, home-like quarters of my valued friends, Mr. 
and Mrs. J. H. Johnston — took the 4 p. m. boat, bound up the 
Hudson, 100 miles or so. Sunset and evening fine. Especially 
enjoy'd the hour after we passed Cozzens's landing — the night lit 
by the crescent moon and Venus, now swimming in tender 
glory, and now hid by the high rocks and hills of the western 
shore, which we hugg'd close. (Where I spend the next ten 
days is in Ulster county and its neighborhood, with frequent 
morning and evening drives, observations of the river, and short 

April 24 — Noon. — A little more and the sun would be oppres- 
sive. The bees are out gathering their bread from willows and 


other trees. I watch them returning, darting through the air or 
lighting on the hives, their thighs covered with the yellow forage. 
A solitary robin sings near. I sit in my shirt sleeves and gaze 
from an open bay-window on the indolent scene — the thin haze, 
the Fishkill hills in the distance — off on the river, a sloop with 
slanting mainsail, and two or three little shad-boats. Over on 
the railroad opposite, long freight trains, sometimes weighted by 
cylinder-tanks of petroleum, thirty, forty, fifty cars in a string, 
panting and rumbling along in full view, but the sound soften' d 
by distance. 


April 26. — At sunrise, the pure clear sound of the meadow 
lark. An hour later, some notes, few and simple, yet delicious 
and perfect, from the bush-sparrow — towards noon the reedy trill 
of the robin. To-day is the fairest, sweetest yet — penetrating 
warmth — a lovely veil in the air, partly heat-vapor and partly 
from the turf- fires everywhere in patches on the farms. A group 
of soft maples near by silently bursts out in crimson tips, buzzing 
all day with busy bees. The white sails of sloops and schooners 
glide up or down the river; and long trains of cars, with pon- 
derous roll, or faint bell notes, almost constantly on the oppo- 
site shore. The earliest wild flowers in the woods and fields, 
spicy arbutus, blue liverwort, frail anemone, and the pretty 
white blossoms of the bloodroot. I launch out in slow rambles, 
discovering them. As I go along the roads I like to see the 
farmers' fires in patches, burning the dry brush, turf, debris. 
How the smoke crawls along, flat to the ground, slanting, slowly 
rising, reaching away, and at last dissipating. I like its acrid 
smell — whiffs just reaching me — welcomer than French perfume. 

The birds are plenty ; of any sort, or of two or three sorts, 
curiously, not a sign, till suddenly some warm, gushing, sunny 
April (or even March) day — lo ! there they are, from twig to twig, 
or fence to fence, flirting, singing, some mating, preparing to 
build. But most of them en passant — a fortnight, a month in 
these parts, and then away. As in all phases, Nature keeps up 
her vital, copious, eternal procession. Still, plenty of the birds 
hang around all or most of the season — now their love-time, and 
era of nest-building. I find flying over the river, crows, gulls 
and hawks. I hear the afternoon shriek of the latter, darting 
about, preparing to nest. The oriole will soon be heard here, 
and the twanging meoeow of the cat-bird ; also the king-bird, 
cuckoo and the warblers. All along, there are three peculiarly 
characteristic spring songs — the meadow-lark's, so sweet, so alert 
and remonstrating (as if he said, " don't you see?" or, " can't 


I 3 I 

you understand?") — the cheery, mellow, human tones of the 
robin — (I have been trying for years to get a brief term, or phrase, 
that would identify and describe that robin-call) — and the amor- 
ous whistle of the high-hole. Insects are out plentifully at midday. 
April 29. — As we drove lingering along the road we heard, 
just after sundown, the song of the wood-thrush. We stopp'd 
without a word, and listen'd long. The delicious notes — a 
sweet, artless, voluntary, simple anthem, as from the flute-stops 
of some organ, wafted through the twilight — echoing well to us 
from the perpendicular high rock, where, in some thick young 
trees' recesses at the base, sat the bird — fill'd our senses, our 


I found in one of my rambles up the hills a real hermit, living 
in a lonesome spot, hard to get at, rocky, the view fine, with a 
little patch of land two rods square. A man of youngish middle 
age, city born and raised, had been to school, had travel'd in 
Europe and California. I first met him once or twice on the road, 
and pass'd the time of day, with some small talk ; then, the third 
time, he ask'd me to go along a bit and rest in his hut (an almost 
unprecedented compliment, as I heard from others afterwards.) 
He was of Quaker stock, I think; talk'd with ease and moderate 
freedom, but did not unbosom his life, or story, or tragedy, or 
whatever it was. 

I jot this mem. in a wild scene of woods and hills, where we 
have come to visit a waterfall. I never saw finer or more copious 
hemlocks, many of them large, some old and hoary. Such a 
sentiment to them, secretive, shaggy — what I call weather-beaten 
and let-alone — a rich underlay of ferns, yew sprouts and mosses, 
beginning to be spotted with the early summer wild-flowers. En- 
veloping all, the monotone and liquid gurgle from the hoarse 
impetuous copious fall — the greenish-tawny, darkly transparent 
waters, plunging with velocity down the rocks, with patches of 
milk-white foam — a stream of hurrying amber, thirty feet wide, 
risen far back in the hills and woods, now rushing with volume — 
every hundred rods a fall, and sometimes three or four in that 
distance. A primitive forest, druidical, solitary and savage — not 
ten visitors a year — broken rocks everywhere — shade overhead, 
thick underfoot with leaves — a just palpable wild and delicate 


As I saunter'd along the high road yesterday, I stopp'd to 
watch a man near by, ploughing a rough stony field with a yoke 


of oxen. Usually there is much geeing and hawing, excitement, 
and continual noise and expletives, about a job of this kind. 
But I noticed how different, how easy and wordless, yet firm and 
sufficient, the work of this young ploughman. His name was 
Walter Dumont, a farmer, and son of a farmer, working for their 
living. Three years ago, when the steamer "Sunnyside" was 
wreck'd of a bitter icy night on the west bank here, Walter went 
out in his boat — was the first man on hand with assistance — 
made a way through the ice to shore, connected a line, per- 
form'd work of first-class readiness, daring, danger, and saved 
numerous lives. Some weeks after, one evening when he was up 
at Esopus, among the usual loafing crowd at the country store and 
post-office, there arrived the gift of an unexpected official gold 
medal for the quiet hero. The impromptu presentation was 
made to him on the spot, but he blush'd, hesitated as he took it, 
and had nothing to say. 


It was a happy thought to build the Hudson river railroad 
right along the shore. The grade is already made by nature ; 
you are sure of ventilation one side — and you are in nobody's 
way. I see, hear, the locomotives and cars, rumbling, roaring, 
flaming, smoking, constantly, away off there, night and day — 
less than a mile distant, and in full view by day. I like both 
sight and sound. Express trains thunder and lighten along ; of 
freight trains, most of them very long, there cannot be less than 
a hundred a day. At night far down you see the headlight ap- 
proaching, coming steadily on like a meteor. The river at night 
has its special character-beauties. The shad fishermen go forth 
in their boats and pay out their nets — one sitting forward, row- 
ing, and one standing up aft dropping it properly — marking the 
line with little floats bearing candles, conveying, as they glide 
over the water, an indescribable sentiment and doubled bright- 
ness. I like to watch the tows at night, too, with their twink- 
ling lamps, and hear the husky panting of the steamers ; or catch 
the sloops' and schooners' shadowy forms, like phantoms, white, 
silent, indefinite, out there. Then the Hudson of a clear moon- 
light night. 

But there is one sight the very grandest. Sometimes in the 
fiercest driving storm of wind, rain, hail or snow, a great eagle 
will appear over the river, now soaring with steady and now 
overhended wings — always confronting the gale, or perhaps 
cleaving into, or at times literally sitting upon it. It is like read- 
ing some first-class natural tragedy or epic, or hearing martial 
trumpets. The splendid bird enjoys the hubbub — is adjusted and 


equal to it — finishes it so artistically. His pinions just oscilla- 
ting — the position of his head and neck — his resistless, occasion- 
ally varied flight — now a swirl, now an upward movement — the 
black clouds driving — the angry wash below — the hiss of rain, 
the wind's piping (perhaps the ice colliding, grunting) — he tack- 
ing or jibing — now, as it were, for a change, abandoning him- 
self to the gale, moving with it with such velocity — and now, 
resuming control, he comes up against it, lord of the situation 
and the storm — lord, amid it, of power and savage joy. 

Sometimes (as at present writing,) middle of sunny afternoon, 
the old " Vanderbilt " steamer stalking ahead — I plainly hear her 
rhythmic, slushing paddles — drawing by long hawsers an im- 
mense and varied following string, ("an old sow and pigs," the 
river folks call it.) First comes a big barge, with a house built 
on it, and spars" towering over the roof; then canal boats, a 
lengthen'd, clustering train, fasten'd and link'd together — the 
one in the middle, with high staff, flaunting a broad and gaudy 
flag — others with the almost invariable lines of new-wash'd 
clothes, drying; two sloops and a schooner aside the tow — little 
wind, and that adverse — with three long, dark, empty barges 
bringing up the rear. People are on the boats : men lounging, 
women in sun-bonnets, children, stovepipes with streaming 


New York, May 24, '/p.— Perhaps no quarters of this city (I 
have return'd again for awhile,) make more brilliant, animated, 
crowded, spectacular human presentations these fine May after- 
noons than the two I am now going to describe from personal 
observation. First : that area comprising^Fourteenth street (es- 
pecially the short range between Broadway and Fifth avenue) 
with Union square, its adjacencies, and so retrostretching down 
Broadway for half a mile. All the walks here are wide, and the 
spaces ample and free — now flooded with liquid gold from the 
last two hours of powerful sunshine. The whole area at 5 o'clock, 
the days of my observations, must have contain'd from thirty to 
forty thousand finely-dress'd people, all in motion, plenty of them 
good-looking, many beautiful women, often youths and children, 
the latter in groups with their nurses — the trottoirs everywhere 
close-spread, thick-tangled, (yet no collision, no trouble,) with 
masses of bright color, action, and tasty toilets ; (surely the 
women dress better than ever before, and the men do too.) As 
if New York would show these afternoons what it can do in its 
humanity, its choicest physique and physiognomy, and its count- 
less prodigality of locomotion, dry goods, glitter, magnetism, 
and happiness. 



Second: also from 5 to 7 P. m. the stretch of Fifth avenue, all 
the way from the Central Park exits at Fifty-ninth street, down 
to Fourteenth, especially along the high grade by Fortieth street, 
and down the hill. A Mississippi of horses and rich vehicles, 
not by dozens and scores, but hundreds and thousands — the broad 
avenue filled and cramm'd with them — a moving, sparkling, hur- 
rying crush, for more than two miles. (I wonder they don't get 
block'd, but I believe they never do.) Altogether it is to me the 
marvel sight of New York. I like to get in one of the Fifth 
avenue stages and ride up, stemming the swift-moving procession. 
I doubt if London or Paris or any city in the world can show 
such a carriage carnival as I have seen here five or six times these 
beautiful May afternoons. 


May 16 to 22. — I visit Central Park now almost every day, 
sitting, or slowly rambling, or riding around. The whole place 
presents its very best appearance this current month — the full 
flush of the trees, the plentiful white and pink of the flowering 
shrubs, the emerald green of the grass spreading everywhere, yel- 
low dotted still with dandelions — the specialty of the plentiful 
gray rocks, peculiar to these grounds, cropping out, miles and 
miles — and over all the beauty and purity, three days out of four, 
of our summer skies. As I sit, placidly, early afternoon, off 
against Ninetieth street, the policeman, C. C, a well-form'd 
sandy-complexion'd young fellow, comes over and stands near 
me. We grow quite friendly and chatty forthwith. He is a New 
Yorker born and raised, and in answer to my questions tells me 
about the life of a New York Park policeman, (while he talks 
keeping his eyes and ears vigilantly open, occasionally pausing and 
moving where he can get full views of the vistas of the road, up 
and down, and the spaces around.) The pay is $2 40 a day (seven 
days to a week) — the men come on and work eight hours straight 
ahead, which is all that is required of them out of the twenty- 
four. The position has more risks than one might suppose — for 
instance if a team or horse runs away (which happens daily) each 
man is expected not only to be prompt, but to waive safety and 
stop wildest nag or nags — (do it, and don't be thinking of your 
bones or face) — give the alarm-whistle too, so that other guards 
may repeat, and the vehicles up and down the tracks be. warn'd. 
Injuries to the men are continually happening. There is much 
alertness and quiet strength. (Few appreciate, I have often 
thought, the Ulyssean capacity, derring do, quick readiness in 
emergencies, practicality, unwitting devotion and heroism, among 
our American young men and working-people — the firemen, the 



railroad employes, the steamer and ferry men, the police, the 
conductors and drivers — the whole splendid average of native 
stock, city and country.) It is good work, though \ and upon the 
whole, the Park force members like it. They see life, and the 
excitement keeps them up. There is not so much difficulty as 
might be supposed from tramps, roughs, or in keeping people 
"off the grass." The worst trouble of the regular Park em- 
ploye is from malarial fever, chills, and the like. 


Ten thousand vehicles careering through the Park this perfect 
afternoon. Such a show ! and I have seen all — watch'd it nar- 
rowly, and at my leisure. Private barouches, cabs and coupes, 
some fine horseflesh — lapdogs, footmen, fashions, foreigners, 
cockades on hats, crests on panels — the full oceanic tide of New 
York's wealth and "gentility." It was an impressive, rich, in- 
terminable circus on a grand scale, full of action and color in 
the beauty of the day, under the clear sun and moderate breeze. 
Family groups, couples, single drivers — of course dresses gener- 
ally elegant — much "style," (yet perhaps little or nothing, even 
in that direction, that fully justified itself.) Through the win- 
dows of two or three of the richest carriages I saw faces almost 
corpse-like, so ashy and listless. Indeed the whole affair exhibi- 
ted less of sterling America, either in spirit or countenance, than 
I had counted on from such a select mass-spectacle. I suppose, 
as a proof of limitless wealth, leisure, and the aforesaid " gen- 
tility," it was tremendous. Yet what I saw those hours (I took two 
other occasions, two other afternoons to watch the same scene,) con- 
firms a thought that haunts me every additional glimpse I get of 
our top-loftical general or rather exceptional phases of wealth 
and fashion in this country — namely, that they are ill at ease, 
much too conscious, cased in too many cerements, and far from 
happy — that there is nothing in them which we who are poor 
and plain need at all envy, and that instead of the perennial 
smell of the grass and woods and shores, their typical redolence 
is of soaps and essences, very rare may be, but suggesting the 
barber shop — something that turns stale and musty in a few hours 

Perhaps the show on the horseback road was prettiest. Many 
groups (threes a favorite number,) some couples, some singly — 
many ladies — frequently horses or parties dashing along on a full 
run — fine riding the rule — a few really first-class animals. As the 
afternoon waned, the wheel'd carriages grew less, but the saddle- 
riders seemed to increase. They linger'd long — and I saw some 
charming forms and faces. 




May 75. — A three hours' bay-trip from 12 to 3 this afternoon, 
accompanying "the City of Brussels" down as far as the Nar- 
rows, in behoof of some Europe-bound friends, to give them a 
good send off. Our spirited little tug, the " Seth Low," kept 
close to the great black "Brussels," sometimes one side, some- 
times the other, always up to her, or even pressing ahead, (like 
the blooded pony accompanying the royal elephant.) The whole 
affair, from the first, was an animated, quick-passing, character- 
istic New York scene; the large, good-looking, well-dress'd 
crowd on the wharf-end — men and women come to see their 
friends depart, and bid them God-speed — the ship's sides swarm- 
ing with passengers — groups of bronze-faced sailors, with uni- 
form'd officers at their posts — the quiet directions, as she quickly 
unfastens and moves out, prompt to a minute — the emotional 
faces, adieus and fluttering handkerchiefs, and many smiles and 
some tears on the wharf — the answering faces, smiles, tears and 
fluttering handkerchiefs, from the ship — (what can be subtler and 
finer than this play of faces on such occasions in these respond- 
ing crowds? — what go more to one's heart?) — the proud, steady, 
noiseless cleaving of the grand oceaner down the bay — we speed- 
ing by her side a few miles, and then turning, wheeling, amid a 
babel of wild hurrahs, shouted partings, ear-splitting steam whis- 
tles, kissing of hands and waving of handkerchiefs. 

This departing of the big steamers, noons or afternoons — there 
is no better medicine when one is listless or vapory. I am fond 
of going down Wednesdays and Saturdays — their more special 
days — to watch them and the crowds on the wharves, the arriv- 
ing passengers, the general bustle and activity, the eager looks 
from the faces, the clear-toned voices, (a travel 'd foreigner, a 
musician, told me the other day she thinks an American crowd 
has the finest voices in the world,) the whole look of the great, 
shapely black ships themselves, and their groups and lined sides — 
in the setting of our bay with the blue sky overhead. Two days 
after the above I saw the " Britannic," the " Donau," the " Hel- 
vetia " and the "Schiedam" steam out, all off for Europe — a 
magnificent sight. 


From 7 to 9, aboard the United States school-ship Minnesota, 
lying up the North river. Captain Luce sent his gig for us about 
sundown, to the foot of Twenty-third street, and receiv'd' us 
aboard with officer-like hospitality and sailor heartiness. There 
are several hundred youths on the Minnesota to be train'd for 
efficiently manning the government navy. I like the idea much ; 


J 37 

and, so far as I have seen to-night, I like the way it is carried 
out on this huge vessel. Below, on the gun-deck, were gather'd 
nearly a hundred of the boys, to give us some of their singing 
exercises, with a melodeon accompaniment, play'd by one of their 
number. They sang with a will. The best part, however, was 
the sight of the young fellows themselves. I went over among 
them before the singing began, and talk'd a few minutes infor- 
mally. They are from all the States ; I asked for the Southern- 
ers, but could only find one, a lad from Baltimore. In age, ap- 
parently, they range from about fourteen years to nineteen or 
twenty. They are all of American birth, and have to pass a rigid 
medical examination ; well-grown youths, good flesh, bright 
eyes, looking straight at you, healthy, intelligent, not a slouch 
among them, nor a menial — in every one the promise of a man. 
I have been to many public aggregations of young and old, and 
of schools and colleges, in my day, but I confess I have never 
been so near satisfied, so comforted, (both from the fact of the 
school itself, and the splendid proof of our country, our compo- 
site race, and the sample-promises of its good average capacities, 
its future,) as in the collection from all parts of the United States 
on this navy training ship. ("Are there going to be any men 
there?" was the dry and pregnant reply of Emerson to one who 
had been crowding him with the rich material statistics and pos- 
sibilities of some western or Pacific region.) 

May 26. — Aboard the Minnesota again. Lieut. Murphy kindly 
came for me in his boat. Enjoy'd specially those brief trips to 
and fro — the sailors, tann'd, strong, so bright and able-looking, 
pulling their oars in long side-swing, man-of-war style, as they 
row'd me across. I saw the boys in companies drilling with small 
arms; had a talk with Chaplain Rawson. At 11 o'clock all of 
us gathered to breakfast around a long table in the great ward 
room — I among the rest — a genial, plentiful, hospitable affair every 
way — plenty to eat, and of the best ; became acquainted with 
several new officers. This second visit, with its observations, talks, 
(two or three at random with the boys,) confirm'd my first im- 


Aug. 4. — Forenoon — as I sit under the willow shade, (have 
retreated down in the country again,) a little bird is leisurely 
dousing and flirting himself amid the brook almost within reach 
of me. He evidently fears me not — takes me for some concomi- 
tant of the neighboring earthy banks, free bushery and wild 
weeds. 6 p. m. — The last three days have been perfect ones for 
the season, (four nights ago copious rains, with vehement thunder 
and lightning.) I write this sitting by the creek watching my 



two kingfishers at their sundown sport. The strong, beautiful, 
joyous creatures ! Their wings glisten in the slanted sunbeams 
as they circle and circle around, occasionally dipping and dash- 
ing the water, and making long stretches up and down the creek. 
Wherever I go over fields, through lanes, in by-places, blooms 
the white-flowering wild-carrot, its delicate pat of snow-flakes 
crowning its slender stem, gracefully oscillating in the breeze. 


Philadelphia, Aug. 26. — Last night and to-night of unsur- 
pass'd clearness, after two days' rain ; moon splendor and star 
splendor. Being out toward the great Exposition building, West 
Philadelphia, I saw it lit up, and thought I would go in. There 
was a ball, democratic but nice; plenty of young couples waltz- 
ing and quadrilling — music by a good string-band. To the sight 
and hearing of these — to moderate strolls up and down the roomy 
spaces — to getting off aside, resting in an arm-chair and look- 
ing up a long while at the grand high roof with its graceful and 
multitudinous work of iron rods, angles, gray colors, plays of 
light and shade, receding into dim outlines — to absorbing (in the 
intervals of the string band,) some capital voluntaries and rolling 
caprices from the big organ at the other end of the building — to 
sighting a shadow'd figure or group or couple of lovers every 
now and then passing some near or farther aisle — I abandon'd 
myself for over an hour. 

Returning home, riding down Market street in an open sum- 
mer car, something detain'd us between Fifteenth and Broad, 
and I got out to view better the new, three-fifths-built marble 
edifice, the City Hall, of magnificent proportions — a majestic 
and lovely show there in the moonlight — flooded all over, facades, 
myriad silver-white lines and carv'd heads and mouldings, with 
the soft dazzle — silent, weird, beautiful — well, I know that never 
when finish'd will that magnificent pile impress one as it im- 
press'd me those fifteen minutes. 

To-night, since, I have been long on the river. I watch the 
C-shaped Northern Crown, (with the star Alshacca that blazed 
out so suddenly, alarmingly, one night a few years ago.) The 
moon in her third quarter, and up nearly all night. And there, 
as I look eastward, my long-absent Pleiades, welcome again to 
sight. For an hour I enjoy the soothing and vital scene to the 
low splash of waves — new stars steadily, noiselessly rising in the 

As I cross the Delaware, one of the deck-hands, F. R., tells me 
how a woman jump'd overboard and was drown'd a couple of 
hours since. It happen'd in mid-channel — she leap'd from the 



forward part of the boat, which went over her. He saw her rise 
♦ on the other side in the swift running water, throw her arms and 
closed hands high up, (white hands and bare forearms in the 
moonlight like a flash,) and then she sank. (I found out after- 
wards that this young fellow had promptly jump'd in, swam after 
the poor creature, and made, though unsuccessfully, the bravest 
efforts to rescue her; but he didn't mention that part at all in 
telling me the story.) 

Sept. 3. — Cloudy and wet, and wind due east ; air without pal- 
pable fog, but very heavy with moisture — welcome for a change. 
Forenoon, crossing the Delaware, I noticed unusual numbers of 
swallows in flight, circling, darting, graceful beyond description, 
close to the water. Thick, around the bows of the ferry-boat as 
she lay tied in her slip, they flew; and as we went out I watch'd 
beyond the pier-heads, and across the broad stream, their swift- 
winding loop-ribands of motion, down close to it, cutting and 
intersecting. Though I had seen swallows all my life, seem'd 
as though I never before realized their peculiar beauty and char- 
acter in the landscape. (Some time ago, for an hour, in a huge 
old country barn, watching these birds flying, recall'd the 2 2d 
book of the Odyssey, where Ulysses slays the suitors, bringing 
things to eclaircissement, and Minerva, swallow-bodied, darts up 
through the spaces of the hall, sits high on a beam, looks com- 
placently on the show of slaughter, and feels in her element, ex- 
ulting, joyous.) 


The following three or four months (Sept. to Dec. '79) I made 
quite a western journey, fetching up at Denver, Colorado, and 
penetrating the Rocky Mountain region enough to get a good 
notion of it all. Left West Philadelphia after 9 o'clock one 
night, middle of September, in a comfortable sleeper. Oblivious 
of the two or three hundred miles across Pennsylvania ; at Pitts- 
burgh in the morning to breakfast. Pretty good view of the 
city and Birmingham — fog and damp, smoke, coke-furnaces, 
flames, discolor'd wooden houses, and vast collections of coal- 
barges. Presently a bit of fine region, West Virginia, the Pan- 
handle, and crossing the river, the Ohio. By day through the 
latter State — then Indiana — and so rock'd to slumber for a second 
night, flying like lightning through Illinois. 

What a fierce weird pleasure to lie in my berth at night in the 
luxurious palace-car, drawn by the mighty Baldwin — embodying, 
and filling me, too, full of the swiftest motion, and most resistless 


strength ! It is late, perhaps midnight or after — distances join'd 
like magic — as we speed through Harrisburg, Columbus, Indian- 
apolis. The element of danger adds zest to it all. On we go, 
rumbling and flashing, with our loud whinnies thrown out from 
time to time, or trumpet-blasts, into the darkness. Passing the 
homes of men, the farms, barns, cattle — the silent villages. And 
the car itself, the sleeper, with curtains drawn and lights turn'd 
down — in the berths the slumberers, many of them women and 
children — as on, on, on, we fly like lightning through the night 
— how strangely sound and sweet they sleep ! (They say the 
French Voltaire in his time designated the grand opera and a 
ship of war the most signal illustrations of the growth of hu- 
manity's and art's advance beyond primitive barbarism. Perhaps 
if the witty philosopher were here these days, and went in the 
same car with perfect bedding and feed from New York to San 
Francisco, he would shift his type and sample to one of our 
American sleepers.) 


We should have made the run of 960 miles from Philadelphia 
to St. Louis in thirty-six hours, but we had a collision and bad 
locomotive smash about two-thirds of the way, which set us back. 
So merely stopping over night that time in St. Louis, I sped on 
westward. As I cross'd Missouri State the whole distance by 
the St. Louis and Kansas City Northern Railroad, a fine early 
autumn day, I thought my eyes had never looked on scenes of 
greater pastoral beauty. For over two hundred miles successive 
rolling prairies, agriculturally perfect view'd by Pennsylvania and 
New Jersey eyes, and dotted here and there with fine timber. 
Yet fine as the land is, it isn't the finest portion; (there is a 
bed of impervious clay and hard-pan beneath this section that 
holds water too firmly, " drowns the land in wet weather, and 
bakes it in dry," as a cynical farmer told me.) South are some 
richer tracts, though perhaps the beauty-spots of the State are 
the northwestern counties. Altogether, I am clear, (now, and 
from what I have seen and learn'd since,) that Missouri, in cli- 
mate, soil, relative situation, wheat, grass, mines, railroads, 
and every important materialistic respect, stands in the front 
rank of the Union. Of Missouri averaged politically and socially 
I have heard all sorts of talk, some pretty severe — but I should 
have no fear myself of getting along safely and comforta- 
bly anywhere among the Missourians. They raise a good deal 
of tobacco. You see at this time quantities of the light green- 
ish-gray leaves pulled and hanging out to dry on temporary 
frameworks or rows of sticks. Looks much like the mullein 
familiar to eastern eyes. 



We thought of stopping in Kansas City, but when we got there 
we found a train ready and a crowd of hospitable Kansians to 
take us on to Lawrence, to which I proceeded. I shall not soon 
forget my good days in L., in company with Judge Usher and 
his sons, (especially John and Linton,) true westerners of the 
noblest type. Nor the similar days in Topeka. Nor the broth- 
erly kindness of my RR. friends there, and the city and State 
officials. Lawrence and Topeka are large, bustling, half-rural, 
handsome cities. I took two or three long drives about the latter, 
drawn by a spirited team over smooth roads. 


And an Undelivefd Speech. 

At a large popular meeting at Topeka — the Kansas State Silver 
Wedding, fifteen or twenty thousand people — I had been erro- 
neously bill'd to deliver a poem. As I seem'd to be made much 
of, and wanted to be good-natured, I hastily pencill'd out the 
following little speech. Unfortunately, (or fortunately,) I had 
such a good time and rest, and talk and dinner, with the U. 
boys, that I let the hours slip away and didn't drive over to the 
meeting and speak my piece. But here it is just the same : 

" My friends, your bills announce me as giving a poem ; but I have no 
poem — have composed none for this occasion. And I can honestly say I am 
now glad of it. Under these skies resplendent in September beauty — amid 
the peculiar landscape you are used to, but which is new to me — these inter- 
minable and stately prairies — in the freedom and vigor and sane enthusiasm 
of this perfect western air and autumn sunshine — it seems to me a poem 
would be almost an impertinence. But if you care to have a word from me, 
I should speak it about these very prairies ; they impress me most, of all the 
objective shows I see or have seen on this, my first real visit to the West. As 
I have roll'd rapidly hither for more than a thousand miles, through fair Ohio, 
through bread-raising Indiana and Illinois — through ample Missouri, that 
contains and raises everything; as I have partially explor'd your charming 
city during the last two days, and, standing on Oread hill, by the university, 
have launch'd my view across broad expanses of living green, in every direc- 
tion — I have again been most impress'd, I say, and shall remain for the rest 
of my life most impress'd, with that feature of the topography of your western 
central world — that vast Something, stretching out on its own unbounded 
scale, unconfined, which there is in these prairies, combining the real and 
ideal, and beautiful as dreams. 

** I wonder indeed if the people of this continental inland West know how 
much of first-class art they have in these prairies — how original and all your 
own — how much of the influences of a character for your future humanity, 
broad, patriotic, heroic and new? how entirely they tally on land the gran- 
deur and superb monotony of the skies of heaven, and the ocean with its 
waters? how freeing, soothing, nourishing they are to the soul? 

" Then is it not subtly they who have given us our leading modern Ameri- 
cans, Lincoln and Grant? — vast-spread, average men — their foregrounds of 
character altogether practical and real, yet (to those who have e'yes to see) 


with finest backgrounds of the ideal, towering high as any. And do we 
not see, in them, foreshadovvings of the future races that shall fill these 
prairies ? 

" Not but what the Yankee and Atlantic States, and every other part — 
Texas, and the States flanking the south-east and the Gulf of Mexico — the 
Pacific shore empire — the Territories and Lakes, and the Canada line (the day 
is not yet, but it will come, including Canada entire) — are equally and inte- 
grally and indissolubly this Nation, the sine qua non of the human, political 
and commercial New World. But this favor'd central area of (in round 
numbers) two thousand miles square seems fated to be the home both of what 
I would call America's distinctive ideas and distinctive realities." 


The jaunt of five or six hundred miles from Topeka to Denver 
took me through a variety of country, but all unmistakably pro- 
lific, western, American, and on the largest scale. For a long 
distance we follow the line of the Kansas river, (I like better the 
old name, Kaw,) a stretch of very rich, dark soil, famed for its 
wheat, and call'd the Golden Belt — then plains and plains, hour 
after hour — Ellsworth county, the centre of the State — where I 
must stop a moment to tell a characteristic story of early days — 
scene the very spot where I am passing — time 1868. In a scrim- 
mage at some public gathering in the town, A. had shot B. quite 
badly, but had not kill'd him. The sober men of Ellsworth con- 
ferr'd with one another and decided that A. deserv'd punish- 
ment. As they wished to set a good example and establish their 
reputation the reverse of a Lynching town, they open an in- 
formal court and bring both men before them for deliberate 
trial. Soon as this trial begins the wounded man is led forward 
to give his testimony. Seeing his enemy in durance and unarm'd, 
B. walks suddenly up in a fury and shoots A. through the head — 
shoots him dead. The court is instantly adjourn'd, and its unani- 
mous members, without a word of debate, walk the murderer B. 
out, wounded as he is, and hang him. 

In due time we reach Denver, which city I fall in love with 
from the first, and have that feeling confirm'd, the longer I stay 
there. One of my pleasantest days was a jaunt, via Platte canon, 
to Leadville. 


Jottings from the Rocky Mountains, mostly pencill'd during a- 
day's trip over the South Park RR., returning from Leadville, 
and especially the hour we were detain'd, (much to my satisfac- 
tion,) at Kenosha summit. As afternoon advances, novelties, 
far-reaching splendors, accumulate under the bright sun in this 
pure air. But I had better commence with the day. 

The confronting of Platte canon just at dawn, after a ten miles' 
ride in early darkness on the rail from Denver — the seasonable 


1 43 

stoppage at the entrance of the canon, and good breakfast of 
eggs, trout, and nice griddle-cakes — then as we travel on, and get 
well in the gorge, all the wonders, beauty, savage power of the 
scene — the wild stream of water, from sources of snows, brawling 
continually in sight one side — the dazzling sun, and the morning 
lights on the rocks — such turns and grades in the track, squirm- 
ing around corners, or up and down hills — far glimpses of a 
hundred peaks, titanic necklaces, stretching north and south — 
the huge rightly-named Dome-rock — and as we dash along, 
others similar, simple, monolithic, elephantine. 


"I have found the law of my own poems," was the unspoken 
but more-and-more decided feeling that came to me as I pass'd, 
hour after hour, amid all this grim yet joyous elemental abandon 
— this plenitude of material, entire absence of art, untrammel'd 
play of primitive Nature — the chasm, the gorge, the crystal 
mountain stream, repeated scores, hundreds of miles — the broad 
handling and absolute uncrampedness — the fantastic forms, 
bathed in transparent browns, faint reds and grays, towering 
sometimes a thousand, sometimes two or three thousand feet high 
— at their tops now and then huge masses pois'd, and mixing 
with the clouds, with only their outlines, hazed in misty lilac, visi- 
ble. ("In Nature's grandest shows," says an old Dutch writer, 
an ecclesiastic, "amid the ocean's depth, if so might be, or 
countless worlds rolling above at night, a man thinks of them, 
weighs all, not for themselves or the abstract, but with reference 
to his own personality, and how they may affect him or color his 


We follow the stream of amber and bronze brawling along its 
bed, with its frequent cascades and snow-white foam. Through 
the canon we fly — mountains not only each side, but seemingly, 
till we get near, right in front of us — every rood a new view 
flashing, and each flash defying description — on the almost per- 
pendicular sides, clinging pines, cedars, spruces, crimson sumach 
bushes, spots of wild grass — but dominating all, those towering 
rocks, rocks, rocks, bathed in delicate vari-colors, with the clear 
sky of autumn overhead. New senses, new joys, seem develop'd. 
Talk as you like, a typical Rocky Mountain canon, or a limitless 
sea-like stretch of the great Kansas or Colorado plains, under 
favoring circumstances, tallies, perhaps expresses, certainly awakes, 
those grandest and subtlest element-emotions in the human soul, 
that all the marble temples and sculptures from Phidias to Thor- 



waldsen — all paintings, poems, reminiscences, or even music, 
probably never can. , 

I get out on a ten minutes' stoppage at Deer creek, to enjoy the 
unequal' d combination of hill, stone and wood. As we speed 
again, the yellow granite in the sunshine, with natural spires, 
minarets, castellated perches far aloft — then long stretches of 
straight-upright palisades, rhinoceros color — then gamboge and 
tinted chromos. Ever the best of my pleasures the cool-fresh 
Colorado atmosphere, yet sufficiently warm. Signs of man's rest- 
less advent and pioneerage, hard as Nature's face is — deserted 
dug-outs by dozens in the side-hills — the scantling hut, the tele- 
graph-pole, the smoke of some impromptu chimney or outdoor 
fire — at intervals little settlements of log-houses, or parties 
of surveyors or telegraph builders, with their comfortable tents. 
Once, a canvas office where you could send a message by elec- 
tricity anywhere around the world ! Yes, pronounc'd signs of 
the man of latest dates, dauntlessly grappling with these grisliest 
shows of the old kosmos. At several places steam saw-mills, 
with their piles of logs and boards, and the pipes puffing. Occa- 
sionally Platte canon expanding into a grassy flat of a few acres. 
At one such place, toward the end, where we stop, and I get out 
to stretch my legs, as I look skyward, or rather mountain-top- 
ward, a huge hawk or eagle (a rare sight here) is idly soaring, 
balancing along the ether, now sinking low and coming quite 
near, and then up again in stately-languid circles — then higher, 
higher, slanting to the north, and gradually out of sight. 

I jot these lines literally at Kenosha summit, where we return, 
afternoon, and take a long rest, 10,000 feet above sea-level. At 
this immense height the South Park stretches fifty miles before 
me. Mountainous chains and peaks in every variety of perspec- 
tive, every hue of vista, fringe the view, in nearer, or middle, or 
far-dim distance, or fade on the horizon. We have now reach'd, 
penetrated the Rockies, (Hayden calls it the Front Range,) for 
a hundred miles or so ; and though these chains spread away in 
every direction, specially north and south, thousands and thou- 
sands farther, I have seen specimens of the utmost of them, and 
know henceforth at least what they are, and what they look like. 
Not themselves alone, for they typify stretches and areas of half 
the globe — are, in fact, the vertebrae or back-bone of our hemis- 
phere. As the anatomists say a man is only a spine, topp'd, 
footed, breasted and radiated, so the whole Western world is, in 
a sense, but an expansion of these mountains. In South America 



they are the Andes, in Central America and Mexico the Cordil- 
leras, and in our States they go under different names — in Cali- 
fornia the Coast and Cascade ranges — thence more eastwardly 
the Sierra Nevadas — but mainly and more centrally here the 
Rocky Mountains proper, with many an elevation such as Lin- 
coln's, Grey's, Harvard's, Yale's, Long's and Pike's peaks, all 
over 14,000 feet high. (East, the highest peaks of the Allegha- 
nies, the Adirondacks, the Cattskills, and the White Mountains, 
range from 2000 to 5500 feet — only Mount Washington, in the 
latter, 6300 feet.) 


In the midst of all here, lie such beautiful contrasts as the 
sunken basins of the North, Middle, and South Parks, (the latter 
I am now on one side of, and overlooking,) each the size of a 
large, level, almost quandrangular, grassy, western county, wall'd 
in by walls of hills, and each park the source of a river. The 
ones I specify are the largest in Colorado, but the whole of that 
State, and of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and western California, 
through their sierras and ravines, are copiously mark'd by similar 
spreads and openings, many of the small ones of paradisiac love- 
liness and perfection, with their offsets of mountains, streams, 
atmosphere and hues beyond compare. 


Talk, I say again, of going to Europe, of visiting the ruins of 
feudal castles, or Coliseum remains, or kings' palaces — when you 
can come here. The alternations one gets, too ; after the Illi- 
nois and Kansas prairies of a thousand miles — smooth and easy 
areas of the corn and wheat of ten million democratic farms in 
the future — here start up in every conceivable presentation of 
shape, these non-utilitarian piles, coping the skies, emanating a 
beauty, terror, power, more than Dante or Angelo ever knew. 
Yes, I think the chyle of not only poetry and painting, but ora- 
tory, and even the metaphysics and music fit for the New World, 
before being finally assimilated, need first and feeding visits here. 

Mountain streams. — The spiritual contrast and etheriality of 
the whole region consist largely to me in its never-absent pecu- 
liar streams — the snows of inaccessible upper areas melting and 
running down through the gorges continually. Nothing like the 
water of pastoral plains, or creeks with wooded banks and turf, or 
anything of the kind elsewhere. The shapes that element takes in 
the shows of the globe cannot be fully understood by an artist 
until he has studied these unique rivulets. 

Aerial effects. — But perhaps as I gaze around me the rarest 
sight of all is in atmospheric hues. The prairies — as I cross'd 



them in my journey hither — and these mountains and parks, 
seem to me to afford new lights and shades. Everywhere the 
aerial gradations and sky-effects inimitable; nowhere else such 
perspectives, such transparent lilacs and grays. I can conceive 
of some superior landscape painter, some fine colorist, after 
sketching awhile out here, discarding all his previous work, de- 
lightful to stock exhibition amateurs, as muddy, raw and artifi- 
cial. Near one's eye ranges an infinite variety; high up, the 
bare whitey -brown, above timber line ; in certain spots afar 
patches of snow any time of year ; (no trees, no flowers, no 
birds, at those chilling altitudes.) As I write I see the Snowy 
Range through the blue mist, beautiful and far off. I plainly see 
the patches of snow. 


Through the long-lingering half-light of the most superb of 
evenings we return'd to Denver, where I staid several days leis- 
urely exploring, receiving impressions, with which I may as well 
taper off this memorandum, itemizing what I saw there. The 
best was the men, three-fourths of them large, able, calm, alert, 
American. And cash ! why they create it here. Out in the 
smelting works, (the biggest and most improv'd ones, for the 
precious metals, in the world,) I saw long rows of vats, pans, 
cover'd by bubbling-boiling water, and fill'd with pure silver, four 
or five inches thick, many thousand dollars' worth in a pan. The 
foreman who was showing me shovel'd it carelessly up with a 
little wooden shovel, as one might toss beans. Then large silver 
bricks, worth $2000 a brick, dozens of piles, twenty in a pile. 
In one place in the mountains, at a mining camp, I had a few 
days before seen rough bullion on the ground in the open air, 
like the confectioner's pyramids at some swell dinner in New 
York. (Such a sweet morsel to roll over with a poor author's pen 
and ink — and appropriate to slip in here — that the silver product 
of Colorado and Utah, with the gold product of California, New 
Mexico, Nevada and Dakota, foots up an addition to the world's 
coin of considerably over a hundred millions every year.) 

A city, this Denver, well-laid out — Laramie street, and 15th 
and 1 6th and Champa streets, with others, particularly fine — 
some with tall storehouses of stone or iron, and windows of plate- 
glass — all the streets with little canals of mountain water running 
along the sides — plenty of people, " business," modernness — yet 
not without a certain racy wild smack, all its own. A place of 
fast horses, (many mares with their colts,) and I. saw lots of big 
greyhounds for antelope hunting. Now and then groups of 
miners, some just come in, some starting out, very picturesque. 



One of the papers here interview' d me, and reported me as 
saying off-hand : " I have lived in or visited all the great cities 
on the Atlantic third of the republic — Boston, Brooklyn with its 
hills, New Orleans, Baltimore, stately Washington, broad Phila- 
delphia, teeming Cincinnati and Chicago, and for thirty years in 
that wonder, wash'd by hurried and glittering tides, my own 
New York, not only the New World's but the world's city — but, 
newcomer to Denver as I am, and threading its streets, breath- 
ing its air, warm'd by its sunshine, and having what there is of 
its human as well as aerial ozone flash 'd upon me now for only 
three or four days, I am very much like a man feels sometimes 
toward certain people he meets with, and warms to, and hardly 
knows why. I, too, can hardly tell why, but as I enter'd the city 
in the slight haze of a late September afternoon, and have breath'd 
its air, and slept well o' nights, and have roam'd or rode leisurely, 
and watch'd the comers and goers at the hotels, and absorb'd 
the climatic magnetism of this curiously attractive region, there 
has steadily grown upon me a feeling of affection for the spot, 
which, sudden as it is, has become so definite and strong that I 
must put it on record." 

v So much for my feeling toward the Queen city of the plains 
and peaks, where she sits in her delicious rare atmosphere, over 
5000 feet above sea-level, irrigated by mountain streams, one way 
looking east over the prairies for a thousand miles, and having 
the other, westward, in constant view by day, draped in their 
violet haze, mountain tops innumerable. Yes, I fell in love with 
Denver, and even felt a wish to spend my declining and dying 
days there. 


Leave Denver at 8 a. m. by the Rio Grande RR. going south. 
Mountains constantly in sight in the apparently near distance, 
veil'd slightly, but still clear and very grand — their cones, colors, 
sides, distinct against the sky — hundreds, it seem'd thousands, 
interminable necklaces of them, their tops and slopes hazed 
more or less slightly in that blue-gray, under the autumn sun, for 
over a hundred miles — the most spiritual show of objective Na- 
ture I ever beheld, or ever thought possible. Occasionally the 
light strengthens, making a contrast of yellow-tinged silver on 
one side, with dark and shaded gray on the other. I took a long 
look at Pike's peak, and was a little disappointed. (I suppose I 
had expected something stunning.) Our view over plains to the 
left stretches amply, with corrals here and there, the frequent 
cactus and wild sage, and herds of cattle feeding. Thus about 
120 miles to Pueblo. At that town we board the comfortable 



and well-equipt Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe RR., now strik- 
ing east. 


I had wanted to go to the Yellowstone river region — wanted 
specially to see the National Park, and the geysers and the " hoo- 
doo" or goblin land of that country; indeed, hesitated a little at 
Pueblo, the turning point — wanted to thread the Veta pass — wanted 
to go over the Santa Fe trail away southwestward to New Mexico 
— but turn'd and set my face eastward — leaving behind me whet- 
ting glimpse-tastes of southeastern Colorado, Pueblo, Bald moun- 
tain, the Spanish peaks, Sangre de Christos, Mile-Shoe-curve 
(which my veteran friend on the locomotive told me was " the 
boss railroad curve of the universe,") fort Garland on the plains, 
Veta, and the three great peaks of the Sierra Blancas. 

The Arkansas river plays quite a part in the whole of this re- 
gion — I see it, or its high-cut rocky northern shore, for miles, and 
cross and recross it frequently, as it winds and squirms like a 
snake. The plains vary here even more than usual — sometimes a 
long sterile stretch of scores of miles — then green, fertile and 
grassy, an equal length. Some very large herds of sheep. (One 
wants new words in writing about these plains, and all the inland 
American West — the terms, far, large, vast, &c, are insufficient.) 


Here I must say a word about a little follower, present even now 
before my eyes. I have been accompanied on my whole journey 
from Barnegat to Pike's Peak by a pleasant floricultural friend, 
or rather millions of friends — nothing more or less than a hardy 
little yellow five-petal' d September and October wild -flower, 
growing I think everywhere in the middle and northern United 
States. I had seen it on the Hudson and over Long Island, and 
along the banks of the Delaware and through New Jersey, (as 
years ago up the Connecticut, and one fall by Lake Champlain.) 
This trip it follow'd me regularly, with its slender stem and eyes 
of gold, from Cape May to the Kaw valley, and so through the 
canons and to these plains. In Missouri I saw immense fields all 
bright with it. Toward western Illinois I woke up one morning 
in the sleeper and the first thing when I drew the curtain of my 
berth and look'd out was its pretty countenance and bending 

Sept 25th. — Early morning — still going east after we leave 
Sterling, Kansas, where I stopp'd a day and night. The sun up 
about half an hour; nothing can be fresher or more beautiful 
than this time, this region. I see quite a field of my yellow 
flower in full bloom. At intervals dots of nice two-story houses, 



as we ride swiftly by. Over the immense area, flat as a floor, 
visible for twenty miles in every direction in the clear air, a 
prevalence of autumn-drab and reddish-tawny herbage — sparse 
stacks of hay and enclosures, breaking the landscape — as we 
rumble by, flocks of prairie-hens starting up. Between Sterling 
and Florence a fine country. (Remembrances to E. L., my old- 
young soldier friend of war times, and his wife and boy at S.) 


{After traveling Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado?) 

Grand as the thought that doubtless the child is already born 
who will see a hundred millions of people, the most prosperous 
and advanc'd of the world, inhabiting these Prairies, the great 
Plains, and the valley of the Mississippi, I could not help think- 
ing it would be grander still to see all those inimitable American 
areas fused in the alembic of a perfect poem, or other esthetic 
work, entirely western, fresh and limitless — altogether our own, 
without a trace or taste of Europe's soil, reminiscence, technical 
letter or spirit. My days and nights, as I travel here — what an 
exhilaration ! — not the air alone, and the sense of vastness, but 
every local sight and feature. Everywhere something character- 
istic — the cactuses, pinks, buffalo grass, wild sage — the receding 
perspective, and the far circle-line of the horizon all times of 
day, especially forenoon — the clear, pure, cool, rarefied nutriment 
for the lungs, previously quite unknown — the black patches and 
streaks left by surface-conflagrations — the deep-plough'd furrow 
of the "fire-guard" — the slanting snow-racks built all along to 
shield the railroad from winter drifts — the prairie-dogs and the 
herds of antelope — the curious "dry rivers" — occasionally a 
" dug-out " or corral — Fort Riley and Fort Wallace — those towns 
of the northern plains, (like ships on the sea,) Eagle-Tail, Coy- 
ote, Cheyenne, Agate, Monotony, Kit Carson — with ever the ant- 
hill and the buffalo- wallow — ever the herds of cattle and the cow- 
boys ("cow-punchers") to me a strangely interesting class, 
bright-eyed as hawks, with their swarthy complexions and their 
broad-brimm'd hats — apparently always on horseback, with loose 
arms slightly raised and swinging as they ride. 

Between Pueblo and Bent's fort, southward, in a clear after- 
noon sun-spell I catch exceptionally good glimpses of the Spanish 
peaks. We are on southeastern Colorado — pass immense herds 
of cattle as our first-class locomotive rushes us along — two or three 
times crossing the Arkansas, which we follow many miles, and 
of which river I get fine views, sometimes for quite a distance, 
its stony, upright, not very high, palisade banks, and then its 



muddy flats. We pass Fort Lyon — lots of adobie houses — limit- 
less pasturage, appropriately fleck'd with those herds of cattle — 
in due time the declining sun in the west — a sky of limpid pearl 
over all — and so evening on the great plains. A calm, pensive, 
boundless landscape — the perpendicular rocks of the north Ar- 
kansas, hued in twilight — a thin line of violet on the southwest- 
ern horizon — the palpable coolness and slight aroma — a belated 
cow-boy with some unruly member of his herd — an emigrant 
wagon toiling yet a little further, the horses slow and tired — two 
men, apparently father and son, jogging along on foot — and 
around all the indescribable chiaroscuro and sentiment, (pro- 
founder than anything at sea,) athwart these endless wilds. 


Speaking generally as to the capacity and sure future destiny 
of that plain and prairie area (larger than any European king- 
dom) it is the inexhaustible land of wheat, maize, wool, flax, coal, 
iron, beef and pork, butter and cheese, apples and grapes — land of 
ten million virgin farms — to the eye at present wild and unproduc- 
tive — yet experts say that upon it when irrigated may easily be 
grown enough wheat to feed the world. Then as to scenery 
(giving my own thought and feeling,) while I know the standard 
claim is that Yosemite, Niagara falls, the upper Yellowstone and 
the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but 
the Prairies and Plains, while less stunning at first sight, last 
longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make 
North America's characteristic landscape. 

Indeed through the whole of this journey, with all its shows 
and varieties, what most impress'd me, and will longest remain 
with me, are these same prairies. Day after day, and night after 
night, to my eyes, to all my senses — the esthStic one most of all 
— they silently and broadly unfolded. Even their simplest sta- 
tistics are sublime. 

The valley of the Mississippi river and its tributaries, (this 
stream and its adjuncts involve a big part of the question,) com- 
prehends more than twelve hundred thousand square miles, the 
greater part prairies. It is by far the most important stream on 
the globe, and would seem to have been marked out by design, 
slow-flowing from north to south, through a dozen climates, all 
fitted for man's healthy occupancy, its outlet unfrozen all the 
year, and its line forming a safe, cheap continental avenue for 
commerce and passage from the north temperate to the torrid 
zone. Not even the mighty Amazon (though larger in volume) 
on its line of east and west — not the Nile in Africa, nor the Dan- 


r 5i 

ube in Europe, nor the three great rivers of China, compare with 
it. Only the Mediterranean sea has play'd some such part in 
history, and all through the past, as the Mississippi is destined to 
play in the future. By its demesnes, water'd and welded by its 
branches, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Arkansas, the Red, the 
Yazoo, the St. Francis and others, it already compacts twenty- 
five millions of people, not merely the most peaceful and money- 
making, but the most restless and warlike on earth. Its valley, 
or reach, is rapidly concentrating the political power of the 
American Union. One almost thinks it is the Union — or 
soon will be. Take it out, with its radiations, and what would 
be left? From the car windows through Indiana, Illinois, Mis- 
souri, or stopping some days along the Topeka and Santa Fe 
road, in southern Kansas, and indeed wherever I went, hundreds 
and thousands of miles through this region, my eyes feasted on 
primitive and rich meadows, some of them partially inhabited, 
but far, immensely far more untouch'd, unbroken — and much of 
it more lovely and fertile in its unplough'd innocence than the 
fair and valuable fields of New York's, Pennsylvania's, Mary- 
land's or Virginia's richest farms. 

The word Prairie is French, and means literally meadow. The 
cosmical analogies of our North American plains are the Steppes 
of Asia, the Pampas and Llanos of South America, and perhaps 
the Saharas of Africa. Some think the plains have been origi- 
nally lake-beds ; others attribute the absence of forests to the 
fires that almost annually sweep over them — (the cause, in vul- 
gar estimation, of Indian summer.) The tree question will soon 
become a grave one. Although the Atlantic slope, the Rocky 
mountain region, and the southern portion of the Mississippi 
valley, are well wooded, there are here stretches of hundreds and 
thousands of miles where either not a tree grows, or often useless 
destruction has prevail'd; and the matter of the cultivation and 
spread of forests may well be press' d upon thinkers who look to 
the coming generations of the prairie States. 

Lying by one rainy day in Missouri to rest after quite a long 
exploration — first trying a big volume I found there of " Milton, 
Young, Gray, Beattie and Collins," but giving it up for a bad 
job — enjoying however for awhile, as often before, the reading 
of Walter Scott's poems, " Lay of the Last Minstrel," " Mar- 
mion," and so on — I stopp'd and laid down the book, and pon- 
der' d the thought of a poetry that should in due time express 
and supply the teeming region I was in the midst of, and have 

j 5 2 SPE CI MEN DA YS. 

briefly touch'd upon. One's mind needs but a moment's delib- 
eration anywhere in the United States to see clearly enough that 
all the prevalent book and library poets, either as imported from 
Great Britain, or follow' d and doppel-gang d here, are foreign to 
our States, copiously as they are read by us all. But to fully un- 
derstand not only how absolutely in opposition to our times and 
lands, and how little and cramp'd, and what anachronisms and 
absurdities many of their pages are, for American purposes, one 
must dwell or travel awhile in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, 
and get rapport with their people and country. 

Will the day ever come — no matter how long deferr'd — when 
those models and lay-figures from the British islands — and even 
the precious traditions of the classics — will be reminiscences, 
studies only ? The pure breath, primitiveness, boundless prodi- 
gality and amplitude, strange mixture of delicacy and power, of 
continence, of real and ideal, and of all original and first-class 
elements, of these prairies, the Rocky mountains, and of the Mis- 
sissippi and Missouri rivers — will they ever appear in, and in some 
sort form a standard for our poetry and art ? (I sometimes think 
that even the ambition of my friend Joaquin Miller to put them 
in, and illustrate them, places him ahead of the whole crowd.) 

Not long ago I was down New York bay, on a steamer, watch- 
ing the sunset over the dark green heights of Navesink, and view- 
ing all that inimitable spread of shore, shipping and sea, around 
Sandy hook. But an intervening week or two, and my eyes 
catch the shadowy outlines of the Spanish peaks. In the more 
than two thousand miles between, though of infinite and para- 
doxical variety, a curious and absolute fusion is doubtless steadily 
annealing, compacting, identifying all. But subtler and wider 
and more solid, (to produce such compaction,) than the laws of 
the States, or the common ground of Congress or the Supreme 
Court, or the grim welding of our national wars, or the steel ties 
of railroads, or all the kneading and fusing processes of our mate- 
rial and business history, past or present, would in my opinion be 
a great throbbing, vital, imaginative work, or series of works, or 
literature, in constructing which the Plains, the Prairies, and the 
Mississippi river, with the demesnes of its varied and ample val- 
ley, should be the concrete background, and America's humanity, 
passions, struggles, hopes, there and now — an eclaircissement as 
it is and is to be, on the stage of the New World, of all Time's 
hitherto drama of war, romance and evolution — should furnish 
the lambent fire, the ideal. 

Oct. 77, '?p. — To-day one of the newspapers of St. Louis prints 
the following informal remarks of mine on American, especially 



Western literature : " We called on Mr. Whitman yesterday and 
after a somewhat desultory conversation abruptly asked him : ' Do 
you think we are to have a distinctively American literature?' 
' It seems to me,' said he, ' that our work at present is to lay the 
foundations of a great nation in products, in agriculture, in com- 
merce, in networks of intercommunication, and in all that relates 
to the comforts of vast masses of men and families, with freedom 
of speech, ecclesiasticism, &c. These we have founded and are 
carrying out on a grander scale than ever hitherto, and Ohio, 
Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, seem to me to 
be the seat and field of these very facts and ideas. Materialistic 
prosperity in all its varied forms, with those other points that I 
mentioned, intercommunication and freedom, are first to be at- 
tended to. When those have their results and get settled, then a 
literature worthy of us will begin to be defined. Our American 
superiority and vitality are in the bulk of our people, not in a 
gentry like the old world. The greatness of our army during the 
secession war, was in the rank and file, and so with the nation. 
Other lands have their vitality in a few, a class, but we have it in 
the bulk of the people. Our leading men are not of much ac- 
count and never have been, but the average of the people is im- 
mense, beyond all history. Sometimes I think in all depart- 
ments, literature and art included, that will be the way our su- 
periority will exhibit itself. We will not have great individuals 
or great leaders, but a great average bulk, unprecedentedly 

great.' " 


Kansas City, — I am not so well satisfied with what I see of the 
women of the prairie cities. I am writing this where I sit leisurely 
in a store in Main street, Kansas city, a streaming crowd on the 
sidewalks flowing by. The ladies (and the same in Denver) are 
all fashionably drest, and have the look of "gentility" in face, 
manner and action, but they do not have, either in physique or 
the mentality appropriate to them, any high native originality 
of spirit or body, (as the men certainly have, appropriate to 
them.) They are "intellectual " and fashionable, but dyspeptic- 
looking and generally doll-like ; their ambition evidently is to 
copy their eastern sisters. Something far different and in ad- 
vance must appear, to tally and complete the superb masculinity 
of the West, and maintain and continue it. 

Sept 28, 'fg. — So General Grant, after circumambiating the 
world, has arrived home again — landed in San Francisco yester- 
day, from the ship City of Tokio from Japan. What a man he 


is ! what a history ! what an illustration — his life — of the capa- 
cities of that American individuality common to us all. Cyni- 
cal critics are wondering " what the people can see in Grant" 
to make such a hubbub about. They aver (and it is no doubt 
true) that he has hardly the average of our day's literary and 
scholastic culture, and absolutely no pronounc'd genius or con- 
ventional eminence of any sort. Correct : but he proves how 
an average western farmer, mechanic, boatman, carried by tides of 
circumstances, perhaps caprices, into a position of incredible 
military or civic responsibilities, (history has presented none more 
trying, no born monarch's, no. mark more shining for attack or 
envy,) may steer his way fitly and steadily through them all, car- 
rying the country and himself with credit year after year — com- 
mand over a million armed men — fight more than fifty pitch'd 
battles — rule for eight years a land larger than all the kingdoms 
of Europe combined — and then, retiring, quietly (with a cigar in 
his mouth) make the promenade of the whole world, through 
its courts and coteries, and kings and czars and mikados, and 
splendidest glitters and etiquettes, as phlegmatically as he ever 
walk'd the portico of a Missouri hotel after dinner. I say all 
this is what people like — and I am sure I like it. Seems to me 
it transcends Plutarch. How those old Greeks, indeed, would 
have seized on him ! A mere plain man — no art, no poetry — 
only practical sense, ability to do, or try his best to do, what de- 
volv'd upon him. A common trader, money-maker, tanner, 
farmer of Illinois — general for the republic, in its terrific struggle 
with itself, in the war of attempted secession — President follow- 
ing, (a task of peace, more difficult than the war itself) — noth- 
ing heroic, as the authorities put it — and yet the greatest hero. 
The gods, the destinies, seem to have concentrated upon him. 


Sept. jo. — I see President Hayes has come out West, passing 
quite informally from point to point, with his wife and a small 
cortege of big officers, receiving ovations, and making daily and 
sometimes double-daily addresses to the people. To these ad- 
dresses — all impromptu, and some would call them ephemeral — ■ 
I feel to devote a memorandum. They are shrewd, good-natur'd, 
face-to-face speeches, on easy topics not too deep; but they give 
me some revised ideas of oratory — of a new, opportune theory 
and practice of that art, quite changed from the classic rules, 
and adapted to our days, our occasions, to American democracy, 
and to the swarming populations of the West. I hear them criti- 
cised as wanting in dignity, but to me they are just what they 
should be, considering all the circumstances, who they come from, 


J 55 

and who they are address'd to. Underneath, his objects are to 
compact and fraternize the States, encourage their materialistic 
and industrial development, soothe and expand their self-poise, 
and tie all and each with resistless double ties not only of inter- 
trade barter, but human comradeship. 

From Kansas city I went on to St. Louis, where I remain'd 
nearly three months, with my brother T. J. W., and my dear 



Oct., Nov., and Dec, '/p. — The points of St. Louis are its 
position, its absolute wealth, (the long accumulations of time 
and trade, solid riches, probably a higher average thereof than 
any city,) the unrivall'd amplitude of its well-laid out environage 
of broad plateaus, for future expansion — and the great State of 
which it is the head. It fuses northern and southern qualities, 
perhaps native and foreign ones, to perfection, rendezvous the 
whole stretch of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and its 
American electricity goes well with its German phlegm. Fourth, 
Fifth and Third streets are store-streets, showy, modern, metro- 
politan, with hurrying crowds, vehicles, horse-cars, hubbub, plenty 
of people, rich goods, plate-glass windows, iron fronts often five 
or six stories high. You can purchase anything in St. Louis (in 
most of the big western cities for the matter of that) just as 
readily and cheaply as in the Atlantic marts. Often in going 
about the town you see reminders of old, even decay'd civiliza- 
tion. The water of the west, in some places, is not good, but 
they make it up here by plenty of very fair wine, and inexhausti- 
ble quantities of the best beer in the world. There are immense 
establishments for slaughtering beef and pork — and I saw flocks 
of sheep, 5000 in a flock. (In Kansas city I had visited a pack- 
ing establishment that kills and packs an average of 2500 hogs a 
day the whole year round, for export. Another in Atchison, 
Kansas, same extent ; others nearly equal elsewhere. And just 
as big ones here.) 

Oct. 29th, 30th, andjist. — Wonderfully fine, with the full har- 
vest moon, dazzling and silvery. I have haunted the river every 
night lately, where I could get a look at the bridge by moon- 
light. It is indeed a structure of perfection and beauty unsurpassa- 
ble, and I never tire of it. The river at present is very low; I 
noticed to-day it had much more of a blue-clear look than usual. 
I hear the slight ripples, the air is fresh and cool, and the view, 
up or down, wonderfully clear, in the moonlight. I am out 
pretty late : it is so fascinating, dreamy. The cool night-air, all 


the influences, the silence, with those far-off eternal stars, do me 
good. I have been quite ill of late. And so, well-near the cen- 
tre of our national demesne, these night views of the Mississippi. 


" Always, after supper, take a walk half a mile long," says an 
old proverb, dryly adding, " and if convenient let it be upon your 
own land." I wonder does any other nation but ours afford op- 
portunity for such a jaunt as this? Indeed has any previous 
period afforded it ? No one, I discover, begins to know the 
real geographic, democratic, indissoluble American Union in the 
present, or suspect it in the future, until he explores these Central 
States, and dwells awhile observantly on their prairies, or amid 
their busy towns, and the mighty father of waters. A ride of 
two or three thousand miles, "on one's own land," with hardly 
a disconnection, could certainly be had in no other place than the 
United States, and at no period before this. If you want to see 
what the railroad is, and how civilization and progress date from 
it — how it is the conqueror of crude nature, which it turns to 
man's use, both on small scales and on the largest — come hither 
to inland America. 

I return'd home, east, Jan. 5, 1880, having travers'd, to and 
fro and across, 10,000 miles and more. I soon resumed my seclu- 
sions down in the woods, or by the creek, or gaddings about 
cities, and an occasional disquisition, as will be seen following. 


Jan. 1, 7 So. — In diagnosing this disease called humanity — to 
assume for the nonce what seems a chief mood of the personality 
and writings of my subject — I have thought that poets, some- 
where or other on the list, present the most mark'd indications. 
Comprehending artists in a mass, musicians, painters, actors, and 
so on, and considering each and all of them as radiations or 
flanges of that furious whirling wheel, poetry, the centre and 
axis of the whole, where else indeed may we so well investigate 
the causes, growths, tally-marks of the time — the age's matter 
and malady? 

By common consent there is nothing better for man or woman 
than a perfect and noble life, morally without flaw, happily bal- 
anced in activity, physically sound and pure, giving its due pro- 
portion, and no more, to the sympathetic, the human emotional 
element — a life, in all these, unhasting, unresting, untiring to the 
end. And yet there is another shape of personality dearer far to 
the artist-sense, (which likes the play of strongest lights and 
shades,) where the perfect character, the good, the heroic, al- 
though never attain 'd, is never lost sight of, but through failures, 



sorrows, temporary downfalls, is return'd to again and again, and 
while often violated, is passionately adhered to as long as mind, 
mtiscles, voice, obey the power we call volition. This sort of 
personality we see more or less in Burns, Byron, Schiller, and 
George Sand. But we do not see it in Edgar Poe. (All this is 
the result of reading at intervals the last three days a new volume 
of his poems — I took it on my rambles down by the pond, and by 
degrees read it all through there.) While to the character first 
outlined the service Poe renders is certainly that entire contrast 
and contradiction which is next best to fully exemplifying it. 

Almost without the first sign of moral principle, or of the con- 
crete or its heroisms, or the simpler affections of the heart, Poe's 
verses illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract 
beauty, with the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity 
toward nocturnal themes, a demoniac undertone behind every 
page — and, by final judgment, probably belong among the elec- 
tric lights of imaginative literature, brilliant and dazzling, but 
with no heat. There is an indescribable magnetism about the 
poet's life and reminiscences, as well as the poems. To one who 
could work out their subtle retracing and retrospect, the latter 
would make a close tally no doubt between the author's birth 
and antecedents, his childhood and youth, his physique, his so- 
call'd education, his studies and associates, the literary and social 
Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia and New York, of those 
times — not only the places and circumstances in themselves, but 
often, very often, in a strange spurning of, and reaction from 
them all. 

The following from a report in the Washington "Star" of 
November 16, 1875, ma y afford those who care for it something 
further of my point of view toward this interesting figure and 
influence of our era. There occurr'd about that date in Balti- 
more a public reburial of Poe's remains, and dedication of a 
monument over the grave : 

" Being in Washington on a visit at the time, ' the old gray' went over to 
Baltimore, and though ill from paralysis, consented to hobble up and silently 
take a seat on the platform, but refused to make any speech, saying, ' I have 
felt a strong impulse to come over and be here to-day myself in memory of 
Poe, which I have obey'd, but not the slightest impulse to make a speech, 
which, my dear friends, must also be obeyed.' In an informal circle, however, 
in conversation after the ceremonies, Whitman said : ' For a long while, and 
until lately, I had a distaste for Poe's writings. I wanted, and still want for 
poetry, the clear sun shining, and fresh air blowing — the strength and power 
of health, not of delirium, even amid the stormiest passions — with always the 
background of the eternal moralities. Non-complying with these requirements, 
Poe's genius has yet conquer'd a special recognition for itself, and I too have 
come to fully admit it, and appreciate it and him. 

" ' In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in a storm. 


It was no great full-rigg'd ship, nor majestic steamer, steering firmly through 
the gale, but seem'd one of those superb little schooner yachts I had often seen 
lying anchor'd, rocking so jauntily, in the waters around New York, or up 
Long Island sound — now flying uncontroll'd with torn sails and broken spars 
through the wild sleet and winds and waves of the night. On the deck was a 
slender, slight, beautiful figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all the terror, 
the murk, and the dislocation of which he was the centre and the victim. 
That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his spirit, his for- 
tunes, and his poems — themselves all lurid dreams.' " 

Much more may be said, but I most desired to exploit the idea 
put at the beginning. By its popular poets the calibres of an 
age, the weak spots of its embankments, its sub-currents, (often 
more significant than the biggest surface ones,) are unerringly 
indicated. The lush and the weird that have taken such extra- 
ordinary possession of Nineteenth century verse-lovers — what 
mean they? The inevitable tendency of poetic culture to mor- 
bidity, abnormal beauty — the sickliness of all technical thought 
or refinement in itself — the abnegation of the perennial and 
democratic concretes at first hand, the body, the earth and sea, 
sex and the like — and the substitution of something for them at 
second or third hand — what bearings have they on current path- 
ological study ? 


Feb. n, y 8o. — At a good concert to-night in the foyer of the 
opera house, Philadelphia — the band a small but first-rate one. 
Never did music more sink into and soothe and fill me— never so 
prove its soul-rousing power, its impossibility of statement. Es- 
pecially in the rendering of one of Beethoven's master septettes 
by the well-chosen and perfectly-combined instruments (violins, 
viola, clarionet, horn, 'cello and contrabass,) was I carried away, 
seeing, absorbing many wonders. Dainty abandon, sometimes 
as if Nature laughing on a hillside in the sunshine ; serious and 
firm monotonies, as of winds ; a horn sounding through the 
tangle of the forest, and the dying echoes; soothing floating of 
waves, but presently rising in surges, angrily lashing, muttering, 
heavy; piercing peals of laughter, for interstices; now and then 
weird, as Nature herself is in certain moods — but mainly spon- 
taneous, easy, careless — often the sentiment of the postures of 
naked children playing or sleeping. It did me good even to 
watch the violinists drawing their bows so masterly — every mo- 
tion a study. I allow'd myself, as I sometimes do, to wander 
out of myself. The conceit came to me of a copious grove of 
singing birds, and in their midst a simple harmonic duo, two 
human souls, steadily asserting their own pensiveness, joyous- 



Feb. IJ. — As I was crossing the Delaware to-day, saw a large 
flock of wild geese, right overhead, not very high up, ranged in 
V-shape, in relief against the noon clouds of light smoke-color. 
Had a capital though momentary view of them, and then of their 
course on and on southeast, till gradually fading — (my eyesight yet 
first rate for the open air and its distances, but I use glasses for 
reading.) Queer thoughts melted into me the two or three 
minutes, or less, seeing these creatures cleaving the sky — the 
spacious, airy realm — even the prevailing smoke-gray color every- 
where, (no sun shining) — the waters below — the rapid flight of the 
birds, appearing just for a minute — flashing to me such a hint of 
the whole spread of Nature, with her eternal unsophisticated 
freshness, her never-visited recesses of sea, sky, shore — and then 
disappearing in the distance. 


March 8. — I write this down in the country again, but in a 
new spot, seated on a log in the woods, warm, sunny, midday. 
Have been loafing here deep among the trees, shafts of tall pines, 
oak, hickory, with a thick undergrowth of laurels and grapevines 
— the ground cover' d everywhere by debris, dead leaves, breakage, 
moss — everything solitary, ancient, grim. Paths (such as they 
are) leading hither and yon — (how made I know not*, for nobody' 
seems to come here, nor man nor cattle-kind.) Temperature to- 
day about 60, the wind through the pine-tops ; I sit and listen to 
its hoarse sighing above (and to the stillness) long and long, 
varied by aimless rambles in the old roads and paths, and by ex- 
ercise-pulls at the young saplings, to keep my joints from get- 
ting stiff. Blue-birds, robins, meadow-larks begin to appear. 

Next day, gth. — A snowstorm in the morning, and continuing 
most of the day. But I took a walk over two hours, the same 
woods and paths, amid the falling flakes. No wind, yet the musi- 
cal low murmur through the pines, quite pronounced, curious, like 
waterfalls, now still'd, now pouring again. All the. senses, sight, 
sound, smell, delicately gratified. Every snowflake lay where it 
fell on the evergreens, holly-trees, laurels, &c, the multitudinous 
leaves and branches piled, bulging-white, defined by edge-lines 
of emerald — the tall straight columns of the plentiful bronze- 
topt pines — a slight resinous odor blending with that of the 
snow. (For there is a scent to everything, even the snow, if you 
can only detect it — no two places, hardly any two hours, any- 
where, exactly alike. How different the odor of noon from 
midnight, or winter from summer, or a windy spell from a still 


May p, Sunday. — Visit this evening to my friends the J.'s — 
good supper, to which I did justice — lively chat with Mrs. J. and 
I. and J. As I sat out front on the walk afterward, in the even- 
ing air, the church-choir and organ on the corner opposite gave 
Luther's hymn, Einfeste berg, very finely. The air was borne by 
a rich contralto. For nearly half an hour there in the dark, 
(there was a good string of English stanzas,) came the music, 
firm and unhurried, with long pauses. The full silver star-beams 
of Lyra rose silently over the church's dim roof-ridge. Vari- 
color'd lights from the stain'd glass windows broke through the 
tree-shadows. And under all — under the Northern Crown up 
there, and in the fresh breeze below, and the chiaroscuro of the 
night, that liquid-full contralto. 


June 4, '8o. — For really seizing a great picture or book, or 
piece of music, or architecture, or grand scenery — or perhaps for 
the first time even the common sunshine, or landscape, or may-be 
eveji the mystery of identity, most curious mystery of all — there 
comes some lucky five minutes of a man's life, set amid a fortu- 
itous concurrence of circumstances, and bringing in a brief flash 
the culmination of years of reading and travel and thought. The 
present case about two o'clock this afternoon, gave me Niagara, its 
superb severity of action and color and majestic grouping, in one 
short, indescribable show. We were very slowly crossing the 
Suspension bridge — not a full stop anywhere, but next to it — the 
day clear, sunny, still — and I out on the platform. The falls 
were in plain view about a mile off, but very distinct, and no roar 
— hardly a murmur. The river tumbling green and white, far 
below me ; the dark high banks, the plentiful umbrage, many 
bronze cedars, in shadow ; and tempering and arching all the 
immense materiality, a clear sky overhead, with a few white 
clouds, limpid, spiritual, silent. Brief, and as quiet as brief, that 
picture — a remembrance always afterwards. Such are the things, 
indeed, I lay away with my life's rare and blessed bits of hours, 
reminiscent, past — the wild sea-storm I once saw one winter day, 
off Fire island — the elder Booth in Richard, that famous night 
forty years ago in the old Bowery — or Alboni in the children's 
scene in Norma — or night-views, I remember, on the field, after 
battles in Virginia — or the peculiar sentiment of moonlight and 
stars over the great Plains, western Kansas — or scooting up New 
York bay, with a stiff breeze and a good yacht, off Navesink. 
With these, I say, I henceforth place that view, that afternoon, 
that combination complete, that five minutes' perfect absorption 


of Niagara — not the great majestic gem alone by itself, but set 
complete in all its varied, full, indispensable surroundings. 

To go back a little, I left Philadelphia, 9th and Green streets, 
at 8 o'clock p. m., June 3, on a first-class sleeper, by the Le- 
high Valley (North Pennsylvania) route, through Bethlehem 
Wilkesbarre, Waverly, and so (by Erie) on through Corning to 
Hornellsville, where we arrived at 8, morning, and had a boun- 
teous breakfast. I must say I never put in such a good night on 
any railroad track — smooth, firm, the minimum of jolting, and 
all the swiftness compatible with safety. So without change to 
Buffalo, and thence to Clifton, where we arrived early afternoon ; 
then on to London, Ontario, Canada, in four more — less than 
twenty-two hours altogether. I am domiciled at the hospitable 
house of my friends Dr. and Mrs. Bucke, in the ample and charm- 
ing garden and lawns of the asylum. 

June 6. — Went over to the religious services (Episcopal) main 
Insane asylum, held in a lofty, good-sized hall, third story. Plain 
boards, whitewash, plenty of cheap chairs, no ornament or color, 
yet all scrupulously clean and sweet. Some three hundred per- 
sons present, mostly patients. Everything, the prayers, a short 
sermon, the firm, orotund voice of the minister, and most of all, 
beyond any portraying or suggesting, that audience, deeply im- 
press' d me. I was furnish' d with an arm-chair near the pulpit, 
and sat facing the motley, yet perfectly well-behaved and orderly 
congregation. The quaint dresses and bonnets of some of the 
women, several very old and gray, here and there like the heads 
in old pictures. O the looks that came from those faces ! There 
were two or three I shall probably never forget. Nothing at all 
markedly repulsive or hideous — strange enough I did not see one 
such. Our common humanity, mine and yours, everywhere : 

" The same old blood — the same red, running blood;" 

yet behind most, an inferr'd arriere of such storms, such wrecks, 
such mysteries, fires, love, wrong, greed for wealth, religious 
problems, crosses — mirror' d from those crazed faces (yet now 
temporarily so calm, like still waters,) all the woes and sad hap- 
penings of life and death — now from every one the devotional 
element radiating — was it not, indeed, the peace of God that pass- 
eth all understanding, strange as it may sound ? I can only say 
that I took long and searching eye-sweeps as I sat there, and it 
seem'd so, rousing unprecedented thoughts, problems unanswer- 
able. A very fair choir, and melodeon accompaniment. They 



sang " Lead, kindly light," after the sermon. Many join'd in 
the beautiful hymn, to which the minister read the introductory 
text, *' In the daytime also He led them with a cloudy and all the 
night with a light of fire." Then the words : 

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom, 

Lead thou me on. 
The night is dark, and I am far from home ; 

Lead thou me on. 
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see 
The distant scene ; one step enough for me. 

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that thou 

Should'st lead me on ; 
I lov'd to choose and see my path ; but now 

Lead thou me on. 
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears 
Pride ruled my will ; remember not past years. 

A couple of days after, I went to the " Refractory building,' 
under special charge of Dr. Beemer, and through the wards 
pretty thoroughly, both the men's and women's. I have since 
made many other visits of the kind through the asylum, and 
around among the detach' d cottages. As far as I could see, this 
is among the most advanced, perfected, and kindly and rationally 
carried on, of all its kind in America. It is a town in itself, 
with many buildings and a thousand inhabitants. 

I learn that Canada, and especially this ample and populous 
province, Ontario, has the very best and plentiest benevolent in- 
stitutions in all departments. 

June 8. — To-day a letter from Mrs. E. S. L., Detroit, accom- 
panied in a little post-office roll by a rare old engraved head of 
Elias Hicks, (from a portrait in oil by Henry Inman, painted for 
J. V. S., must have been 60 years or more ago, in New York) — 
among the rest the following excerpt about E. H. in the letter : 

" I have listen'd to his preaching so often when a child, and sat with my 
mother at social gatherings where he was the centre, and every one so pleas'd 
and stirr'd by his conversation. I hear that you contemplate writing or 
speaking about him, and I wonder'd whether you had a picture of him. As I 
am the owner of two, I send you one." 

In a few days I go to lake Huron, and may have something to 
say of that region and people. From what I already see, I should 
say the young native population of Canada was growing up, 
forming a hardy, democratic, intelligent, radically sound, and 
just as American, good-natured and individualistic race, as the 
average range of best specimens among us. As among us, too, 


I please myself by considering that this element, though it may 
not be the majority, promises to be the leaven which must even- 
tually leaven the whole lump. 

' Some of the more liberal of the presses here are discussing the 
question of a zollverein between the United States and Canada. 
It is proposed to form a union for commercial purposes — to alto- 
gether abolish the frontier tariff line, with its double sets of cus- 
tom house officials now existing between the two countries, and 
to agree upon one tariff for both, the proceeds of this tariff to be 
divided between the two governments on the basis of population. 
It is said that a large proportion of the merchants of Canada are 
in favor of this step, as they believe it would materially add to 
the business of the country, by removing the restrictions that 
now exist on trade between Canada and the States. Those per- 
sons who are opposed to the measure believe that it would in- 
crease the material welfare of the country, but it would loosen 
the bonds between Canada and England; and this sentiment 
overrides the desire for commercial prosperity. Whether the 
sentiment can continue to bear the strain put upon it is a ques- 
tion. It is thought by many that commercial considerations 
must in the end prevail. It seems also to be generally agreed 
that such a zollverein, or common customs union, would bring 
practically more benefits to the Canadian provinces than to the 
United States. (It seems to me a certainty of time, sooner or 
later, that Canada shall form two or three grand States, equal 
and independent, with the rest of the American Union. The St. 
Lawrence and lakes are not for a frontier line, but a grand inte- 
rior or mid-channel.) 

August 20. — Premising that my three or four months in Canada 
were intended, among the rest, as an exploration of the line of 
the St. Lawrence, from lake Superior to the sea, (the engineers 
here insist upon considering it as one stream, over 2000 miles 
long, including lakes and Niagara and all) — that I have only par- 
tially carried out my programme ; but for the seven or eight hun- 
dred miles so far fulfill' d, I find that the Canada question is abso- 
lutely control'd by this vast water line, with its first-class features 
and points of trade, humanity, and many more — here I am writ- 
ing this nearly a thousand miles north of my Philadelphia starting- 
point (by way of Montreal and Quebec) in the midst of regions 
that go to a further extreme of grimness, wildness of beauty, and 
a sort of still and pagan scaredness, while yet Christian, inhabit- 
able, and partially fertile, than perhaps any other on earth. The 


weather remains perfect ; some might call it a little cool, but I 
wear my old gray overcoat and find it just right. The days are 
full of sunbeams and oxygen. Most of the forenoons and after- 
noons I am on the forward deck of the steamer. 

Up these black waters, over a hundred miles — always strong, 
deep, (hundreds of feet, sometimes thousands,) ever with high, 
rocky hills for banks, green and gray — at times a little like some 
parts of the Hudson, but much more pronounc'd and defiant. The 
hills rise higher — keep their ranks more unbroken. The river is 
straighter and of more resolute flow, and its hue, though dark as 
ink, exquisitely polish'd and sheeny under the August sun. Dif- 
ferent, indeed, this Saguenay from all other rivers — different 
effects — a bolder, more vehement play of lights and shades. Of 
a rare charm of singleness and simplicity. (Like the organ-chant 
at midnight from the old Spanish convent, in " Favorita" — one 
strain only, simple and monotonous and unornamented — but in- 
describably penetrating and grand and masterful.) Great place 
for echoes : while our steamer was tied at the wharf at Tadousac 
(taj-oo-sac) waiting, the escape-pipe letting off steam, I was sure 
I heard a band at the hotel up in the rocks — could even make 
out some of the tunes. Only when our pipe stopp'd, I knew 
what caused it. Then at cape Eternity and Trinity rock, the 
pilot with his whistle producing similar marvellous results, echoes 
indescribably weird, as we lay off in the still bay under their 


But the great, haughty, silent capes themselves; I doubt if any 
crack points, or hills, or historic places of note, or anything of 
the kind elsewhere in the world, outvies these* objects — (I write 
while I am before them face to face.) They are very simple, 
they do not startle — at least they did not me — but they linger in 
one's memory forever. They are placed very near each other, 
side by side, each a mountain rising flush out of the Saguenay. 
A good thrower could throw a stone on each in passing — at least 
it seems so. Then they are as distinct in form as a perfect physi- 
cal man or a perfect physical woman. Cape Eternity is bare, 
rising, as just said, sheer out of the water, rugged and grim (yet 
with an indescribable beauty) nearly two thousand feet high. 
Trinity rock, even a little higher, also rising flush, top-rounded 
like a great head with close-cut verdure of hair. I consider my- 
self well repaid for coming my thousand miles to get the sight 
and memory of the unrivall'd duo. They have stirr'd me more 
profoundly than anything of the kind I have yet seen. If Europe 



or Asia had them, we should certainly hear of them in all sorts 
of sent-back poems, rhapsodies, &c, a dozen times a year through 
our papers and magazines. 


No indeed — life and travel and memory have offer'd and will 
preserve to me no deeper-cut incidents, panorama, or sights to 
cheer my soul, than these at Chicoutimi and Ha-ha bay, and my 
days and nights up and down this fascinating savage river — the 
rounded mountains, some bare and gray, some dull red, some 
draped close all over with matted green verdure or vines — the 
ample, calm, eternal rocks everywhere — the long streaks of motley 
foam, a milk-white curd on the glistening breast of the stream — 
the little two-masted schooner, dingy yellow, with patch'd sails, 
set wing-and-wing, nearing us, coming saucily up the water with 
a couple of swarthy, black-hair'd men aboard — the strong shades 
falling on the light gray or yellow outlines of the hills all through 
the forenoon, as we steam within gunshot of them — while ever 
the pure and delicate sky spreads over all. And the splendid sun- 
sets, and the sights of evening — the same old stars, (relatively a 
little different, I see, so far north) Arcturus and Lyra, and the 
Eagle, and great Jupiter like a silver globe, and the constellation 
of the Scorpion. Then northern lights nearly every night. 


Grim and rocky and black- water' d as the demesne hereabout 
is, however, you must not think genial humanity, and comfort, 
and good-living are not to be met. Before I began this memo- 
randum I made a first-rate breakfast of sea-trout, finishing off 
with wild raspberries. I find smiles and courtesy everywhere — 
physiognomies in general curiously like those in the United 
States — (I wasastonish'd to find the same resemblance all through 
the province of Quebec.) In general the inhabitants of this 
rugged country (Charlevoix, Chicoutimi and Tadousac counties, 
and lake St. John region) a simple, hardy population, lumbering, 
trapping furs, boating, fishing, berry-picking and a little farm- 
ing. I was watching a group of young boatmen eating their 
early dinner — nothing but an immense loaf of bread, had appar- 
ently been the size of a bushel measure, from which they cut 
chunks with a jack-knife. Must be a tremendous winter country 
this, when the solid frost and ice fully set in. 


(Back again in Camden and down in Jersey.) 

One time I thought of naming this collection "Cedar-Plums 
Like" (which I still fancy wouldn't have been a bad name, nor 


inappropriate.) A melange of loafing, looking, hobbling, sit- 
ting, traveling — a little thinking thrown in for salt, but very- 
little — not only summer but all seasons — not only days but nights 
— some literary meditations — books, authors examined, Carlyle, 
Poe, Emerson tried, (always under my cedar-tree, in the open 
air, and never in the library) — mostly the scenes everybody sees, 
but some of my own caprices, meditations, egotism — truly an 
open air and mainly summer formation — singly, or in clusters — 
wild and free and somewhat acrid — indeed more like cedar-plums 
than you might guess at first glance. 

But do you know what they are ? (To city man, or some sweet 
parlor lady, I now talk.) As you go along roads, or barrens, or 
across country, anywhere through these States, middle, eastern, 
western, or southern, you will see, certain seasons of the year, 
the thick woolly tufts of the cedar mottled with bunches of 
china-blue berries, about as big as fox-grapes. But first a special 
word for the tree itself: everybody knows that the cedar is a 
healthy, cheap, democratic wood, streak'd red and white — an 
evergreen — that it is not a cultivated tree — that it keeps away 
moths — that it grows inland or seaboard, all climates, hot or cold, 
any soil — in fact rather prefers sand and bleak side spots — con- 
tent if the plough, the fertilizer and the trimming-axe, will but 
keep away and let it alone. After a long rain, when everything 
looks bright, often have I stopt in my wood-saunters, south or 
north, or far west, to take in its dusky green, wash'd clean and 
sweet, and speck' d copiously with its fruit of clear, hardy blue. 
The wood of the cedar is of use — but what profit on earth are 
those sprigs of acrid plums ? A question impossible to answer 
satisfactorily. True, some of the herb doctors give them for 
stomachic affections, but the remedy is as bad as the disease. 
Then in my rambles down in Camden county I once found an 
old crazy woman gathering the clusters with zeal and joy. She 
show'd, as I was told afterward, a sort of infatuation for them, 
and every year placed and kept profuse bunches high and low 
about her room. They had a strange charm on her uneasy head, 
and effected docility and peace. (She was harmless, and lived 
near by with her well-off married daughter.) Whether there is 
any connection between those bunches, and being out of one's 
wits, I cannot say, but I myself entertain a weakness for them. 
Indeed, I love the cedar, anyhow — its naked ruggedness, its just 
palpable odor, (so different from the perfumer's best,) its silence, 
its equable acceptance of winter's cold and summer's heat, of 
rain or drouth — its shelter to me from those, at times — its asso- 
ciations — (well, I never could explain why I love anybody, or 
anything.) The service I now specially owe to the cedar is, while 



I cast around for a name for my proposed collection, hesitating, 
puzzled — after rejecting a long, long string, I lift my eyes, and 
lo ! the very term I want. At any rate, I go no further — I tire 
in the search. I take what some invisible kind spirit has put be- 
fore me. Besides,* who shall say there is not affinity enough be- 
tween (at least the bundle of sticks that produced) many of these 
pieces, or granulations, and those blue berries? their uselessness 
growing wild — a certain aroma of Nature I would so like to have 
in my pages — the thin soil whence they come — their content in 
being let alone — their stolid and deaf repugnance to answering 
questions, (this latter the nearest, dearest trait affinity of all.) 

Then reader dear, in conclusion, as to the point of the name 
for the present collection, let us be satisfied to have a name — 
something to identify and bind it together, to concrete all its 
vegetable, mineral, personal memoranda, abrupt raids of criti- 
cism, crude gossip of philosophy, varied sands and clumps — 
without bothering ourselves because certain pages do not present 
themselves to you or me as coming under their own name with 
entire fitness or amiability. (It is a profound, vexatious, never- 
explicable matter — this of names. I have been exercised deeply 
about it my whole life.*) 

After all of which the name " Cedar-Plums Like " got its nose 
put out of joint ; but I cannot afford to throw away what I pen- 

* In the pocket of my receptacle-book I find a list of suggested and re- 
jected names for this volume, or parts of it — such as the following: 
As the wild bee hums in May, 
dr 3 August mulleins grow, 
&° Winter snow-flakes fall, 
<5j° stars in the sky roll round. 

Away from Books — away from Art, 

Now for the Day and Night — the lesson done. 

Now for the Sun and Stars. 

Notes of a half Paralytic ; As Voices in the Dusk, from Speak- 
Week in ana Week out, ers far or hid, 

Embers of Ending Days, Autochthons Embryons, 

Ducks and Drakes, Wing-and- Wing, 

Flood Tide and Ebb, Notes and Recalles, 

Gossip at Early Candle-light, Only Mulleins and Bumble-Bees, 

Echoes and Escapades, Pond-Babble Tite-a- Tetes, 

Such as I... ..Evening Dews, Echoes of a Life in the loth Century 
Notes after Writing a Book, in the New World, 

Far and Near at 6j, Flanges of Fifty Years, 

Drifts and Cumulus, Abandons Hurry Notes, 

Maize-Tassels Kindlings, A Life-Mosaic Native Moments, 

Fore and Aft Vestibules, Types and Semi- Tones, 

Scintilla at 60 and after, Oddments Sand- Drifts, 

Sands on the Shores of 64, Again and Again. 


cill'd down the lane there, under the shelter of my old friend, 
one warm October noon. Besides, it wouldn't be civil to the 
rpn2.r tree 


Feb. 10, '<?/. — And so the flame of the lamp, after long wast- 
ing and flickering, has gone out entirely. 

As a representative author, a literary figure, no man else will 
bequeath to the future more significant hints of our stormy era, its 
fierce paradoxes, its din, and its struggling parturition periods, 
than Carlyle. He belongs to our own branch of the stock too ; 
neither Latin nor Greek, but altogether Gothic. Rugged, moun- 
tainous, volcanic, he was himself more a French revolution than 
any of his volumes. In some respects, so far in the Nineteenth 
century, the best equipt, keenest mind, even from the college 
point of view, of all Britain; only he had an ailing body. Dys- 
pepsia is to be traced in every page, and now and then fills the 
page. One may include among the lessons of his life — even 
though that life stretch'd to amazing length — how behind the 
tally of genius and morals stands the stomach, and gives a sort 
of casting vote. 

Two conflicting agonistic elements seem to have contended in 
the man, sometimes pulling him different ways like wild horses. 
He was a cautious, conservative Scotchman, fully aware what a 
foetid gas-bag much of modern radicalism is; but then his great 
heart demanded reform, demanded change — often terribly at odds 
with his scornful brain. No author ever put so much wailing 
and despair into his books, sometimes palpable, oftener latent. 
He reminds me of that passage in Young's poems where as death 
presses closer and closer for his prey, the soul rushes hither and 
thither, appealing, shrieking, berating, to escape the general doom. 

Of short-comings, even positive blur-spots, from an American 
point of view, he had serious share. 

Not for his merely literary merit, (though that was great) — 
not as " maker of books," but as launching into the self-compla- 
cent atmosphere of our days a rasping, questioning, dislocating 
agitation and shock, is Carlyle's final value. It is time the 
English-speaking peoples had some true idea about the verteber 
of genius, namely power. As if they must always have it cut 
and bias'd to the fashion, like a lady's cloak ! What a needed 
service he performs ! How he shakes our comfortable reading 
circles with a touch of the old Hebraic anger and prophecy — and 
indeed it is just the same. Not Isaiah himself more scornful, 
more threatening : " The crown of pride, the drunkards of Eph- 
raim, shall be trodden under feet : And the glorious beauty which 
is on the head of the fat valley shall be a fading flower." (The 


word prophecy is much misused ; it seems narrow'd to prediction 
merely. That is not the main sense of the Hebrew word trans- 
lated " prophet ;" it means one whose mind bubbles up and pours 
forth as a fountain, from inner, divine spontaneities revealing God. 
Prediction is a very minor part of prophecy. The great matter 
is to reveal and outpour the God-like suggestions pressing for 
birth in the soul. This is briefly the doctrine of the Friends or 

Then the simplicity and amid ostensible frailty the towering 
strength of this man — a hardy oak knot, you could never wear 
out — an old farmer dress'd in brown clothes, and not handsome 
— his very foibles fascinating. Who cares that he wrote about 
Dr. Francia, and "Shooting Niagara" — and "the Nigger Ques- 
tion," — and didn't at all admire our United States? (I doubt 
if he ever thought or said half as bad words about us as we de- 
serve.) How he splashes like leviathan in the seas of modern 
literature and politics! Doubtless, respecting the latter, one 
needs first to realize, from actual observation, the squalor, vice 
and doggedness ingrain'd in the bulk-population of the British 
Islands,, with the red tape, the fatuity, the nunkeyisrn everywhere, 
to understand the last meaning in his pages. Accordingly, though 
he was no chartist or radical, I consider Carlyle's by far the most 
indignant comment or protest anent the fruits of feudalism to- 
day in Great Britain — the increasing poverty and degradation of 
the homeless, landless twenty millions, while a few thousands, or 
rather a few hundreds, possess the entire soil, the money, and the 
fat berths. Trade and shipping, and clubs and culture, and pres- 
tige, and guns, and a fine select class of gentry and aristocracy, 
with every modern improvement, cannot begin to salve or de- 
fend such stupendous hoggishness. 

The way to test how much he has left his country were to con- 
sider, or try to consider, for a moment, the array of British 
thought, the resultant ensemble of the last fifty years, as existing 
to-day, but with Carlyle left out. It would be like an army with 
no artillery. The show were still a gay and rich one — Byron, 
Scott, Tennyson, and many more — horsemen and rapid infantry, 
and banners flying — but the last heavy roar so dear to the ear of 
the train'd soldier, and that settles fate and victory, would be 

For the last three years we in America have had transmitted 
glimpses of a thin-bodied, lonesome, wifeless, childless, very old 
man, lying on a sofa, kept out of bed by indomitable will, but, 
of late, never well enough to take the open air. I have noted 
this news from time to time in brief descriptions in the papers. 
A week ago I read such an item just before I started out for my 




customary evening stroll between eight and nine. In the fine 
cold night, unusually clear, (Feb. 5, '8i,) as I walk'd some open 
grounds adjacent, the condition of Carlyle, and his approaching 
— perhaps even then actual — death, filled me with thoughts 
eluding statement, and curiously blending with the scene. The 
planet Venus, an hour high in the west, with all her volume 
and lustre recover' d, (she has been shorn and languid for nearly 
a year,) including an additional sentiment I never noticed before 
— not merely voluptuous, Paphian, steeping, fascinating — now 
with calm commanding seriousness and hauteur — the Milo Ve- 
nus now. Upward to the zenith, Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon 
past her quarter, trailing in procession, with the Pleiades follow- 
ing, and the constellation Taurus, and red Aldebaran. Not a 
cloud in heaven. Orion strode through the southeast, with his 
glittering belt — and a trifle below hung the sun of the night, 
Sirius. Every star dilated, more vitreous, nearer than usual. Not 
as in some clear nights when the larger stars entirely outshine 
the rest. Every little star or cluster just as distinctly visible, and 
just as nigh. Berenice's hair showing every gem, and new ones. 
To the northeast and north the Sickle, the Goat and kids, Cas- 
siopea, Castor and Pollux, and the two Dippers. While through 
the whole of this silent indescribable show, inclosing and bath- 
ing my whole receptivity, ran the thought of Carlyle dying. (To 
soothe and spiritualize, and, as far as may be, solve the mysteries 
of death and genius, consider them under the' stars at midnight.) 
And now that he has gone hence, can it be that Thomas Car- 
lyle, soon to chemically dissolve in ashes and by winds, remains 
an identity still ? In ways perhaps eluding all the statements, 
lore and speculations of ten thousand years — eluding all possible 
statements to mortal sense — does he yet exist, a definite, vital 
being, a spirit, an individual — perhaps now wafted in space among 
those stellar systems, which, suggestive and limitless as they are, 
merely edge more limitless, far more suggestive systems ? I have 
no doubt of it. In silence, of a fine night, such questions are an- 
swer'd to the soul, the best answers that can be given. With me, 
too, when depress'd by some specially sad event, or tearing prob- 
lem, I wait till I go out under the stars for the last voiceless sat- 

Later Thoughts and "Jottings. 


There is surely at present an inexplicable rapport (all the more 

piquant from its contradictoriness) between that deceas'd author 

and our United States of America — no matter whether it lasts or 

not.* As we Westerners assume definite shape, and result in for- 

* It will be difficult for the future — judging by his books, personal dis- 
sympathies, &c, — to account for the deep hold this author has taken on the 

SPE CI MEN DA VS. 1 7 1 

mations and fruitage unknown before, it is curious with what a 
new sense our eyes turn to representative outgrowths of crises 
and personages in the Old World. Beyond question, since Car- 
lyle's death, and the publication of Froude's memoirs, not only 
the interest in his books, but every personal bit regarding the 
famous Scotchman — his dyspepsia, his buffetings, his parentage, 
his paragon of a wife, his career in Edinburgh, in the lonesome 
nest on Craigenputtock moor, and then so many years in London 
— is probably wider and livelier to-day in this country than in 
his own land. Whether I succeed or no, I, too, reaching across 
the Atlantic and taking the man's dark fortune-telling of hu- 
manity and politics, would offset it all, (such is the fancy that 
comes to me,) by a far more profound horoscope-casting of those 
themes— G. F. Hegel's * 

First, about a chance, a never- fulfil Pd vacuity of this pale cast 
of thought — this British Hamlet from Cheyne row, more puz- 
zling than the Danish one, with his contrivances for settling the 
broken and spavin'd joints of the world's government, especially 
its democratic dislocation. Carlyle's grim fate was cast to live 
and dwell in, and largely embody, the parturition agony and 
qualms of the old order, amid crowded accumulations of ghastly 
morbidity, giving birth to the new. But conceive of him (or 
his parents before him) coming to America, recuperated by the 
cheering realities and activity of our people and country — grow- 
ing up and delving face-to-face resolutely among us here, espe- 
cially at the West — inhaling and exhaling our limitless air and eli- 
gibilities — devoting his mind to the theories and developments 
of this Republic amid its practical facts as exemplified in Kan- 
sas, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, or Louisiana. I say facts, and 

present age, and the way he has color'd its method and thought. I am cer- 
tainly at a loss to account for it all as affecting myself. But there could be 
no view, or even partial picture, of the middle and latter part of our Nine- 
teenth century, that did not markedly include Thomas Carlyle. In his case 
(as so many others, literary productions, works of art, personal identities, 
events,) there has been an impalpable something more effective than the pal- 
pable. Then I find no better text, (it is always important to have a definite, 
special, even oppositional, living man to start from,) for sending out certain 
speculations and comparisons for home use. Let us see what they amount to 
— those reactionary doctrines, fears, scornful analyses of democracy — even 
from the most erudite and sincere mind of Europe. 

* Not the least mentionable part of the case, (a streak, it may be, of that 
humor with which history and fate love to contrast their gravity,) is that al- 
though neither of my great authorities during their lives consider'd the United 
States worthy of serious mention, all the principal works of both might not 
inappropriately be this day collected and bound up under the conspicuous 
title : " Speculations for the tise of North America, and Democracy there, with 
the relations of the same to Metaphysics, including Lessons and Warnings 
(encouragemetits too, and of the vastest,) from the Old World to the New" 



face-to-face confrontings — so different from books, and all those 
quiddities and mere reports in the libraries, upon which the man 
(it was wittily said of him at the age of thirty, that there was 
no one in Scotland who had glean'd so much and seen so little,) 
almost wholly fed, and which even his sturdy and vital mind but 
reflected at best. 

Something of the sort narrowly escaped happening. In 1835, 
after more than a dozen years of trial and non -success, the author 
of " SaTtor Resartus" removing to London, very poor, a con- 
firmed hypochondriac, "Sartor" universally scoffed at, no lite- 
rary prospects ahead, deliberately settled on one last casting- 
throw of the literary dice — resolv'd to compose and launch forth 
a book on the subject of the French Revolution — and if that won 
no higher guerdon or prize than hitherto, to sternly abandon the 
trade of author forever, and emigrate for good to America. But 
the venture turn'd out a lucky one, and there was no emigration. 

Carlyle's work in the sphere of literature as he commenced 
and carried it out, is the same in one or two leading respects that 
Immanuel Kant's was in speculative philosophy. But the Scotch- 
man had none of the stomachic phlegm and never- perturb'd pla- 
cidity of the Konigsberg sage, and did not, like the latter, under- 
stand his own limits, and stop when he got to the end of. them. 
He clears away jungle and poison-vines and underbrush — at any 
rate hacks valiantly at them, smiting hip and thigh. Kant did 
the like in his sphere, and it was all he profess'd to do ; his labors 
have left the ground fully prepared ever since — and greater ser- 
vice was probably never perform'd by mortal man. But the pang 
and hiatus of Carlyle seem to me to consist in the evidence 
everywhere that amid a whirl of fog and fury and cross-purposes, 
he firmly believ'd he had a clue to the medication of the world's 
ills, and that his bounden mission was to exploit it.* 

There were two anchors, or sheet-anchors, for steadying, as a 
last resort, the Carlylean ship. One will be specified presently. 
The other, perhaps the main, was only to be found in some 
mark'd form of personal force, an extreme degree of competent 
urge and will, a man or men "born to command." Probably 
there ran through every vein and current of the Scotchman's 
blood something that warm'd up to this kind of trait and char- 
acter above aught else in the world, and which makes him in my 

* I hope I shall not myself fall into the error I charge upon him, of pre- 
scribing a specific for indispensable evils. My utmost pretension is probably 
but to offset that old claim of the exclusively curative power of first-class in- 
dividual men, as leaders and rulers, by the claims, and general movement and 
result, of ideas. Something of the latter kind seems to me the distinctive 
theory of America, of democracy, and of the modern — or rather, I should 
say, it is democracy, and is the modern. 


1 73 

opinion the chief celebrater and promulger of it in literature — 
more than Plutarch, more than Shakspere. The great masses of 
humanity stand for nothing — at least nothing but nebulous raw 
material ; only the big planets and shining suns for him. To 
ideas almost invariably languid or cold, a number-one forceful 
personality was sure to rouse his eulogistic passion and savage 
joy. In such case, even the standard of duty hereinafter rais'd, 
was to be instantly lower'd and vail'd. All that is compre- 
hended under the terms republicanism and democracy were dis- 
tasteful to him from the first, and as he grew older they became 
hateful and contemptible. For an undoubtedly candid and pen- 
etrating faculty such as his, the bearings he persistently ignored 
were marvellous. For instance, the promise, nay certainty of 
the democratic principle, to each and every State of the current 
world, not so much of helping it to perfect legislators and execu- 
tives, but as the only effectual method for surely, however slowly, 
training people on a large scale toward voluntarily ruling and 
managing themselves (the ultimate aim of political and all other 
development) — to gradually reduce the fact of governing to its 
minimum, and to subject all its staffs and their doings to the tele- 
scopes and microscopes of committees and parties — and greatest 
of all, to afford (not stagnation and obedient content, which went 
well enough with the feudalism and ecclesiasticism of the antique 
and medieval world, but) a vast and sane and recurrent ebb and 
tide action for those floods of the great deep that have hence- 
forth palpably burst forever their old bounds — seem never to 
have enter'd Carlyle's thought. It was splendid how he refus'd 
any compromise to the last. He was curiously antique. In that 
harsh, picturesque, most potent voice and figure, one seems 
to be carried back from the present of the British islands more 
than two thousand years, to the range between Jerusalem and 
Tarsus. His fullest best biographer justly says of him : 

'' He was a teacher and a prophet, in the Jewish sense of the word. The 
prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah have become a part of the permanent spir- 
itual inheritance of mankind, because events proved that they had interpreted 
correctly the signs of their own times, and their prophecies were fulfill' d. 
Carlyle, like them, believ'd that he had a special message to deliver to the 
present age. Whether he was correct in that belief, and whether his message 
was a true message, remains to be seen. He has told us that our most cher- 
ish'd ideas of political liberty, with their kindred corollaries, are mere illu- 
sions, and that the progress which has seem'd to go along with them is a 
progress towards anarchy and social dissolution. If he was wrong, he has 
misused his powers. The principles of his teachings are false. He has offer'd 
himself as a guide upon a road of which he had no knowledge ; and his own 
desire for himself would be the speediest oblivion both of his person and his 
works. If, on the other hand, he has been right; if, like his great prede- 
cessors, he has read truly the tendencies of this modern age of ours, and his 



teaching is authenticated by facts, then Carlyle, too, will take his place among 
the inspired seers." 

To which I add an amendment that under no circumstances, 
and no matter how completely time and events disprove his lurid 
vaticinations, should the English-speaking world forget this man, 
nor fail to hold in honor his unsurpass'd conscience, his unique 
method, and his honest fame. Never were convictions more 
earnest and genuine. Never was there less of a flunkey or tem- 
porizer. Never had political progressivism a foe it could more 
heartily respect. 

The second main point of Carlyle's utterance was the idea of 
duty being done. (It is simply a new codicil — if it be particularly 
new, which is by no means certain — on the time-honor' d bequest 
of dynasticism, the mould-eaten rules of legitimacy and kings.) 
He seems to have been impatient sometimes to madness when 
reminded by persons who thought at least as deeply as himself, 
that this formula, though precious, is rather a vague one, and that 
there are many other considerations to a philosophical estimate 
of each and every department either in general history or indi- 
vidual affairs. 

Altogether, I don't know anything more amazing than these 
persistent strides and throbbings so far through our Nineteenth 
century, of perhaps its biggest, sharpest, and most erudite brain, 
in defiance and discontent with everything ; contemptuously 
ignoring, (either from constitutional inaptitude, ignorance itself, 
or more likely because he demanded a definite cure-all here and 
now,) the only solace and solvent to be had. 

There is, apart from mere intellect, in the make-up of every 
superior human identity, (in its moral completeness, considered 
as ensemble, not for that moral alone, but for the whole being, in- 
cluding physique,) a wondrous something that realizes without 
argument, frequently without what is called education, (though 
I think it the goal and apex of all education deserving the name) — 
an intuition of the absolute balance, in time and space, of the 
whole of this multifarious, mad chaos of fraud, frivolity, hoggish- 
ness — this revel of fools, and incredible make-believe and general 
unsettledness, we call the world; a soul-sight of that divine clue 
and unseen thread which holds the whole congeries of things, all 
history and time, and all events, however trivial, however mo- 
mentous, like a leash' d dog in the hand of the hunter. Such 
soul-sight and root-centre for the mind — mere optimism explains 
only the surface or fringe of it — Carlyle was mostly, perhaps en- 
tirely without. He seems instead to have been haunted in the 
play of his mental action by a spectre, never entirely laid from 
first to last, (Greek scholars, I believe, find the same mocking and 



fantastic apparition attending Aristophanes, his comedies,) — the 
spectre of world-destruction. 

How largest triumph or failure in human life, in war or peace, 
may depend on some little hidden centrality, hardly more than 
a drop of blood, a pulse-beat, or a breath of air ! It is certain 
that all these weighty matters, democracy in America, Carlyle- 
ism, and the temperament for deepest political or literary explo- 
ration, turn on a simple point in speculative philosophy. 

The most profound theme that can occupy the mind of man — 
the problem on whose solution science, art, the bases and pur- 
suits of nations, and everything else, including intelligent human 
happiness, (here to-day, 1882, New York, Texas, California, the 
same as all times, all lands,) subtly and finally resting, depends 
for competent outset and argument, is doubtless involved in the 
query : What is the fusing explanation and tie — what the rela- 
tion between the (radical, democratic) Me, the human identity 
of understanding, emotions, spirit, &c, on the one side, of and 
with the (conservative) Not Me, the whole of the material ob- 
jective universe and laws, with what is behind them in time and 
space, on the other side? Immanuel Kant, though he explain'd, 
or partially explain'd, as may be said, the laws of the human 
understanding, left this question an open one. Schelling's an- 
swer, or suggestion of answer, is (and very valuable and impor- 
tant, as far as it goes,) that the same general and particular intelli- 
gence, passion, even the standards of right and wrong, which exist 
in a conscious and formulated state in man, exist in an uncon- 
scious state, or in perceptible analogies, throughout the entire 
universe of external Nature, in all its objects large or small, and 
all its movements and processes — thus making the impalpable 
human mind, and concrete Nature, notwithstanding their duality 
and separation, convertible, and in centrality and essence one. 
But G. F. Hegel's fuller statement of the matter probably remains 
the last best word that has been said upon it, up to date. Sub- 
stantially adopting the scheme just epitomized, he so carries it 
out and fortifies it and merges everything in it, with certain 
serious gaps now for the first time fill'd, that it becomes a cohe- 
rent metaphysical system, and substantial answer (as far as there 
can be any answer) to the foregoing question— -a system which, 
while I distinctly admit that the brain of the future may add to, 
revise, and even entirely reconstruct it, any rate beams forth 
to-day, in its entirety, illuminating the thought of the universe, 
and satisfying the mystery thereof to the human mind, with a 
more consoling scientific assurance than any yet. 

According to Hegel the whole earth, (an old nucleus-thought, 
as in the Vedas, and no doubt before, but never hitherto brought 


so absolutely to the front, fully surcharged with modern scientism 
and facts, and made the sole entrance to each and all,) with its 
infinite variety, the past, the surroundings of today, or what 
may happen in the future, the contrarieties of material with spir- 
itual, and of natural with artificial, are all, to the eye of the en- 
semblist, but necessary sides and unfoldings, different steps or 
links, in the endless process of Creative thought, which, amid 
numberless apparent failures and contradictions, is held together 
by central and never-broken unity — not contradictions or failures 
at all, but radiations of one consistent and eternal purpose ; the 
whole mass of everything steadily, unerringly tending and flow- 
ing toward the permanent utile and morale, as rivers to oceans. 
As life is the whole law and incessant effort of the visible uni- 
verse, and death only the other or invisible side of the same, so 
the utile, so truth, so health, are the unseen but immutable laws 
of the moral universe, and vice and disease, with all their pertur- 
bations, are but transient, even if ever so prevalent expressions. 

To politics throughout, Hegel applies the like catholic standard 
and faith. Not any one party, or any one form of government, 
is absolutely and exclusively true. Truth consists in the just re- 
lations of objects to each other. A majority or democracy 
may rule as outrageously and do as great harm as an oligarchy or 
despotism — though far less likely to do so. But the great evil is 
either a violation of the relations just referr'd to, or of the moral 
law. The specious, the unjust, the cruel, and what is called the 
unnatural, though not only permitted but in a certain sense, (like 
shade to light,) inevitable in the divine scheme, are by the whole 
constitution of that scheme, partial, inconsistent, temporary, and 
though having ever so great an ostensible majority, are certainly 
destin'd to failure, after causing great suffering. 

Theology, Hegel translates into science.* All apparent con- 
tradictions in the statement of the Deific nature by different 
ages, nations, churches, points of view, are but fractional and 
imperfect expressions of one essential unity, from which they all 
proceed — crude endeavors or distorted parts, to be regarded both 
as distinct and united. In short (to put it in our own form, or 
summing up,) that thinker or analyzer or overlooker who by an 
inscrutable combination of train'd wisdom and natural intuition 
most fully accepts in perfect faith the moral unity and sanity 
of the creative scheme, in history, science, and all life and time, 
present and future, is both the truest cosmical devotee or religi- 
oso, and the profoundest philosopher. While he who, by the 
spell of himself and his circumstance, sees darkness and despair 

* I am much indebted to J. Gostick's abstract. 


in the sum of the workings of God's providence, and who, in 
that, denies or prevaricates, is, no matter how much piety plays 
on his lips, the most radical sinner and infidel. 

I am the more assured in recounting Hegel a little freely here,* 
not only for offsetting the Carlylean letter and spirit — cutting it 
out all and several from the very roots, and below the roots — but 
to counterpoise, since the late death and deserv'd apotheosis of 
Darwin, the tenets of the evolutionists. Unspeakably precious 
as those are to biology, and henceforth indispensable to a right 
aim and estimate in study, they neither comprise or explain every- 
thing — and the last word or whisper still remains to be breathed, 
after the utmost of those claims, floating high and forever above 
them all, and above technical metaphysics. While the contribu- 
tions which German Kant and Fichte and Schelling and Hegel 
have bequeath'd to humanity — and which English Darwin has 
also in his field — are indispensable to the erudition of America's 
future, I should say that in all of them, and the best of them, 
when compared with the lightning flashes and flights of the old 
prophets and exaltte, the spiritual poets and poetry of all lands, 
(as in the Hebrew Bible,) there seems to be, nay certainly is, 
something lacking — something cold, a failure to satisfy the deep- 
est emotions of the soul — a want of living glow, fondness, 
warmth, which the old exaltes and poets supply, and which the 
keenest modern philosophers so far do not. 

Upon the whole, and for our purposes, this man's name cer- 
tainly belongs on the list with the just-specified, first-class moral 
physicians of our current era — and with Emerson and two or 
three others — though his prescription is drastic, and perhaps de- 
structive, while theirs is assimilating, normal and tonic. Feudal 
at the core, and mental offspring and radiation of feudalism as 
are his books, they afford ever-valuable lessons and affinities to 
democratic America. Nations or individuals, we surely learn 
deepest from unlikeness, from a sincere opponent, from the light 
thrown even scornfully on dangerous spots and liabilities. (Mi- 
chel Angelo invoked heaven's special protection against his friends 
and affectionate flatterers; palpable foes he could manage for 

* I have deliberately repeated it all, not only in offset to Carlyle's ever- 
lurking pessimism and world-decadence, but as presenting the most thoroughly 
American points of view I know. In my opinion the above formulas of He- 
gel are an essential and crowning justification of New World democracy in the 
creative realms of time and space. There is that about them which only the 
vastness, the multiplicity and the vitality of America would seem able to com- 
prehend, to give scope and illustration to, or to be fit for, or even originate. 
It is strange to me that they were born in Germany, or in the old world at all. 
While a Carlyle, I should say, is quite the legitimate European product to be 


himself.) In many particulars Carlyle was indeed, as Froude 
terms him, one of those far-off Hebraic utterers, a new Micah or 
Habbakuk. His words at times bubble forth with abysmic inspira- 
tion. Always precious, such men ; as precious now as any time. 
His rude, rasping, taunting, contradictory tones — what ones are 
more wanted amid the supple, polish'd, money-worshipping, Je- 
sus-and-Judas-equalizing, suffrage-sovereignty echoes of current 
America? He has lit up our Nineteenth century with the light 
of a powerful, penetrating, and perfectly honest intellect of the 
first-class, turn'd on British and European politics, social life, 
literature, and representative personages — thoroughly dissatisfied 
with all, and mercilessly exposing the illness of all. But while he 
announces the malady, and scolds and raves about it, he himself, 
born and bred in the same atmosphere, is a mark'd illustration of it. 


Latter April. — Have run down in my country haunt for a couple 
of days, and am spending them by the pond. I had already dis- 
cover'd my kingfisher here (but only one — the mate not here 
yet.) This fine bright morning, down by the creek, he has come 
out for a spree, circling, flirting, chirping at a round rate. While 
I am writing these lines he is disporting himself in scoots and 
rings over the wider parts of the pond, into whose surface he 
dashes, once or twice making a loud souse — the spray flying in 
the sun — beautiful ! I saw his white and dark-gray plumage and 
peculiar shape plainly, as he has deign'd to come very near me. 
The noble, graceful bird ! Now he is sitting on the limb of an 
old tree, high up, bending over the water — seems to be looking 
at me while I memorandize. I almost fancy he knows me. Three 
days later. — My second kingfisher is here with his (or her) mate. 
I saw the two together flying and whirling around. I had heard, 
in the distance, what I thought was the clear rasping staccato of 
the birds several times already — but I couldn't be sure the notes 
came from both until I saw them together. To-day at noon they 
appear'd, but apparently either on business, or for a little limited 
exercise only. No wild frolic now, full of free fun and motion, up 
and down for an hour. Doubtless, now they have cares, duties, in- 
cubation responsibilities. The frolics are deferr'd till summer-close. 

I don't know as I can finish to-day's memorandum better than 
with Coleridge's lines, curiously appropriate in more ways than one : 

" All Nature seems at work — slugs leave their lair, 
The bees are stirring — birds are on the wing, 
And winter, slumbering in the open air, 
"Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring; 
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing, 
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing." 




May 1, '81. — Seems as if all the ways and means of American 
travel to-day had been settled, not only with reference to speed 
and directness, but for the comfort of women, children, invalids, 
and old fellows like me. I went on by a through train that runs 
daily from Washington to the Yankee metropolis without change. 
You get in a sleeping-car soon after dark in Philadelphia, and 
after ruminating an hour or two, have your bed made up if you 
like, draw the curtains, and go to sleep in it — fly on through Jer- 
sey to New York — hear in your half-slumbers a dull jolting and 
bumping sound or two — are unconsciously toted from Jersey city 
by a midnight steamer around the Battery and under the big 
bridge to the track of the New Haven road — resume your flight 
eastward, and early the next morning you wake up in Boston. All 
of which was my experience. I wanted to go to the Revere house. 
A tall unknown gentleman, (a fellow-passenger on his way to 
Newport he lold me, I had just chatted a few moments before 
with him,) assisted me out through the depot crowd, procured a 
hack, put me in it with my traveling bag, saying smilingly and 
quietly, "Now I want you to let this be my ride," paid the 
driver, and before I could remonstrate bow'd himself off. 

The occasion of my jaunt, I suppose I had better say here, was 
for a public reading of " the death of Abraham Lincoln " essay, 
on the sixteenth anniversary of that tragedy ; which reading duly 
came off, night of April 15. Then I linger'da week in Boston — 
felt pretty well (the mood propitious, my paralysis lull'd) — went 
around everywhere, and saw all that was to be seen, especially 
human beings. Boston's immense material growth — commerce, 
finance, commission stores, the plethora of goods, the crowded 
streets and sidewalks — made of course the first surprising show. 
In my trip out West, last year, I thought the wand of future pros- 
perity, future empire, must soon surely be wielded by St. Louis, 
Chicago, beautiful Denver, perhaps San Francisco ; but I see the 
said wand stretch'd out just as decidedly in Boston, with just as 
much certainty of staying ; evidences of copious capital — in- 
deed no centre of the New World ahead of it, (half the big rail- 
roads in the West are built with Yankees' money, and they take 
the dividends.) Old Boston with its zigzag streets and multitudi- 
nous angles, (crush up a sheet of letter-paper in your hand, throw 
it down, stamp it flat, and that is a map of old Boston) — new 
Boston with its miles upon miles of large and costly houses — 
Beacon street, Commonwealth avenue, and a hundred others. But 
the best new departures and expansions of Boston, and of all the 
cities of New England, are in another direction. 


In the letters we get from Dr. Schliemann (interesting but 
fishy) about his excavations there in the far-off Homeric area, I 
notice cities, ruins, &c, as he digs them out of their graves, are cer- 
tain to be in layers — that is to say, upon the foundation of an 
old concern, very far down indeed, is always another city or set 
of ruins, and upon that another superadded — and sometimes upon 
that still another — each representing either a long or rapid stage 
of growth and development, different from its predecessor, but 
unerringly growing out of and resting on it. In the moral, emo- 
tional, heroic, and human growths, (the main of a race in my 
opinion,) something of this kind has certainly taken place in 
Boston. The New England metropolis of to-day may be de- 
scribed as sunny, (there is something else that makes warmth, 
mastering even winds and meteorologies, though those are not to 
be sneez'd at,) joyous, receptive, full of ardor, sparkle, a certain 
element of yearning, magnificently tolerant, yet not to be fool' d; 
fond of good eating and drinking — costly in costume as its purse 
can buy; and all through its best average of houses, streets, 
people, that subtle something (generally thought to be climate, 
but it is not — it is something indefinable in the the race, the turn 
of its development) which effuses behind the whirl of animation, 
study, business, a happy and joyous public spirit, as distinguished 
from a sluggish and saturnine one. Makes me think of the glints 
we get (as in Symonds's books) of the jolly old Greek cities. In- 
deed there is a good deal of the Hellenic in B., and the people 
are getting handsomer too — padded out, with freer motions, and 
with color in their faces. I never saw (although this is not Greek) 
so many fine- looking gray hair } d women. At my lecture I caught 
myself pausing more than once to look at them, plentiful every- 
where through the audience — healthy and wifely and motherly, 
and wonderfully charming and beautiful — I think such as no time 
or land but ours could show. 


April 16. — A short but pleasant visit to Longfellow. I am not 
one of the calling kind, but as the author of " Evangeline " 
kindly took the trouble to come and see me three years ago in 
Camden, where I was ill, I felt not only the impulse of my own 
pleasure on that occasion, but a duty. He was the only particular 
eminence I called on in Boston, and I shall not soon forget his 
lit-up face and glowing warmth and courtesy, in the modes of 
what is called the old school. 

And now just here I feel the impulse to interpolate something 
about the mighty four who stamp this first American century with 


its birth-marks of poetic literature. In a late magazine one of my 
reviewers, who ought to know better, speaks of my " attitude of 
contempt and scorn and intolerance* ' toward the leading poets — 
of my "deriding" them, and preaching their " uselessness. ' ' If 
anybody cares to know what I think — and have long thought 
and avow'd — about them, I am entirely willing to propound. 
I can't imagine any better luck befalling these States for a 
poetical beginning and initiation than has come from Emerson, 
Longfellow, Bryant, and Whittier. Emerson, to me, stands un- 
mistakably at the head, but for the others I am at a loss where to 
give any precedence. Each illustrious, each rounded, each dis- 
tinctive. Emerson for his sweet, vital-tasting melody, rhym'd 
philosophy, and poems as amber-clear as the honey of the wild 
bee he loves to sing. Longfellow for rich color, graceful forms 
and incidents — all that makes life beautiful and love refined — 
competing with the singers of Europe on their own ground, and, 
with one exception, better and finer work than that of any of 
them. Bryant pulsing the first interior verse-throbs of a mighty 
world — bard of the river and the wood, ever conveying a taste 
of open air, with scents as from hayfields, grapes, birch-bor- 
ders — always lurkingly fond of threnodies — beginning and end- 
ing his long career with chants of death, with here and there 
through all, poems, or passages of poems, touching the highest 
universal truths, enthusiasms, duties — morals as grim and eternal, 
if not as stormy and fateful, as anything in Eschylus. While in 
Whittier, with his special themes — (his outcropping love of hero- 
ism and war, for all his Quakerdom, his verses at times like the 
measur'd step of Cromwell's old veterans) — in Whittier lives 
the zeal, the moral energy, that founded New England — the splen- 
did rectitude and ardor of Luther, Milton, George Fox — I must 
not, dare not, say the wilfulness and narrowness — though doubt- 
less the world needs now, and always will need, almost above all, 
just such narrowness and wilfulness. 


April 18. — Went out three or four miles to the house of Quincy 
Shaw, to see a collection of J. F. Millet's pictures. Two rapt 
hours. Never before have I been so penetrated by this kind of 
expression. I stood long and long before " the Sower." I be- 
lieve what the picture-men designate "the first Sower," as the 
artist executed a second copy, and a third, and, some think, im- 
proved in each. But I doubt it. There is something in this 
that could hardly be caught again — a sublime murkiness and 
original pent fury. Besides this masterpiece, there were many 
others, (I shall never forget the simple evening scene, "Watering 


the Cow,") all inimitable, all perfect as pictures, works of mere 
art ; and then it seem'd to me, with that last impalpable ethic 
purpose from the artist (most likely unconscious to himself) 
which I am always looking for. To me all of them told the full 
story of what went before and necessitated the great French revo- 
lution — the long precedent crushing of the masses of a heroic 
people into the earth, in abject poverty, hunger — every right de- 
nied, humanity attempted to be put back for generations — yet 
Nature's force, titanic here, the stronger and hardier for that 
repression — waiting terribly to break forth, revengeful — the pres- 
sure on the dykes, and the bursting at last — the storming of the 
Bastile — the execution of the king and queen — the tempest of 
massacres and blood. Yet who can wonder ? 

Could we wish humanity different ? 

Could we wish the people made of wood or stone ? 

Or that there be no justice in destiny or time ? 

The true France, base of all the rest, is certainly in these pic- 
tures. I comprehend " Field-People Reposing," " the Diggers," 
and " the Angelus " in this opinion. Some folks always think 
of the French as a small race, five or five and a half feet high, 
and ever frivolous and smirking. Nothing of the sort. The 
bulk of the personnel of France, before the revolution, was large- 
sized, serious, industrious as now, and simple. The revolution 
and Napoleon's wars dwarf'd the standard of human size, but it 
will come up again. If for nothing else, I should dwell on my 
brief Boston visit for opening to me the new world of Millet's 
pictures. Will America ever have such an artist out of her own 
gestation, body, soul ? 

Sunday, April i?. — An hour and a half, late this afternoon, in 
silence and half light, in the great nave of Memorial hall, Cam- 
bridge, the walls thickly cover' d with mural tablets, bearing the 
names of students and graduates of the university who fell in the 
secession war. 

April 23. — It was well I got away in fair order, for if I had 
staid another week I should have been killed with kindness, and 
with eating and drinking. 

May 14. — Home again ; down temporarily in the Jersey woods. 
Between 8 and 9 a.m. a full concert of birds, from different 
quarters, in keeping with the fresh scent, the peace, the natural- 
ness all around me. I am lately noticing the russet-back, size of 
the robin or a trifle less, light breast and shoulders, with irregular 
dark stripes — tail long — sits hunch'd up by the hour these days, 
top of a tall bush, or some tree, singing blithely. I often get 



near and listen, as he seems tame ; I like to watch the working of 
his bill and throat, the quaint sidle of his body, and flex of his 
long tail. I hear the woodpecker, and night and early morning 
the shuttle of the whip-poor-will — noons, the gurgle of thrush 
delicious, and meo-o-ow of the cat-bird. Many I cannot name ; 
but I do not very particularly seek information. (You must not 
know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and 
trees and flowers and water-craft ; a certain free margin, and even 
vagueness — perhaps ignorance, credulity — helps your enjoyment 
of these things, and of the sentiment of feather'd, wooded, river, 
or marine Nature generally. I repeat it — don't want to know 
too exactly, or the reasons why. My own notes have been written 
off-hand in the latitude of middle New Jersey. Though they de- 
scribe what I saw — what appear'd to me — I dare say the expert 
ornithologist, botanist or entomologist will detect more than one 
slip in them.) 


I ought not to offer a record of these days, interests, recu- 
perations, without including a certain old, well-thumb'd com- 
mon-place book,* filled with favorite excerpts, I carried in my 

* Samples of my common-place book doivn at the creek : 
I have — says old Pindar — many swift arrows in my quiver which speak to 
the wise, though they need an interpreter to the thoughtless. 

Such a man as it takes ages to make, and ages to understand. 

H. D. Thoreau. 
If you hate a man, don't kill him, but let him live. — Buddhistic. 
Famous swords are made of refuse scraps, thought worthless. 

Poetry is the only verity — the expression of a sound mind speaking after the 
ideal — and not after the apparent. — Emerson. 

The form of oath among the Shoshone Indians is, " The earth hears me. 
The sun hears me. Shall I lie ?" 

The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the 
crops — no, but the kind of a man the country turns out. — Emerson. 

The whole wide ether is the eagle's sway : 

The whole earth is a brave man's fatherland. — Euripides. 

Spices crush'd, their pungence yield, 

Trodden scents their sweets respire ; 
Would you have its strength reveal'd? 

Cast the incense in the fire. 

Matthew Arnold speaks of " the huge Mississippi of falsehood called His- 

The wind blows north, the wind blows south, 

The wind blows east and west ; 
No matter how the free wind blows, 
Some ship will find it best. 


pocket for three summers, and absorb' d over and over again, 
when the mood invited. I find so much in having a poem or fine 

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you, and be 
silent. — Epictetus. 

Victor Hugo makes a donkey meditate and apostrophize thus : 

My brother, man, if you would know the truth, 
We both are by the same dull walls shut in; 
The gate is massive and the dungeon strong. 
But you look through the key-hole out beyond, 
And call this knowledge ; yet have not at hand 
The key wherein to turn the fatal lock. 

"William Cullen Bryant surprised me once," relates a writer in a New 
York paper, " by saying that prose was the natural language of composition, 
and he wonder'd how anybody came to write poetry." 

Farewell ! I did not know thy worth ; 

But thou art gone, and now 'tis prized: 
So angels walk'd unknown on earth, 

But when they flew were recognized. — Hood. 

John Burroughs, writing of Thoreau, says : " He improves with age — in 
fact requires age to take off a little of his asperity, and fully ripen him. The 
world likes a good hater and refuser almost as well as it likes a good lover 
and accepter — only it likes him farther off." 

Louise Michel at the burial of Blanqui^ (l88r.) 
Blanqui drill'd his body to subjection to his grand conscience and his noble 
passions, and commencing as a young man, broke with all that is sybaritish in 
modern civilization. Without the power to sacrifice self, great ideas will 
never bear fruit. 

Out of the leaping furnace flame 

A mass of molten silver came ; 

Then, beaten into pieces three, 

Went forth to meet its destiny. 

The first a crucifix was made, 

Within a soldier's knapsack laid; 

The second was a locket fair, 

Where a mother kept her dead child's hair; 

The third — a bangle, bright and warm, 

Around a faithless woman's arm. 

A mighty pain to love it is, 
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss ; 
But of all pain the greatest pain, 
It is to love, but love in vain. 

Maurice F. Egan on De Gue'rin, 

A pagan heart, a Christian soul had he, 

He follow'd Christ, yet for dead Pan he sigh'd, 
Till earth and heaven met within his breast: 

As if Theocritus in Sicily 

Had come upon the Figure crucified, 
And lost his gods in deep, Christ-given rest. 



suggestion sink into me (a little then goes a great ways) prepar'd 
by these vacant-sane and natural influences. 


July 25, ' 'Si. — Far Rockaway, L. 1. — A good day here, on a 
jaunt, amid the sand and salt, a steady breeze setting in from the 
sea, the sun shining, the sedge-odor, the noise of the surf, a mix- 
ture of hissing and booming, the milk-white crests curling over. 
I had a leisurely bath and naked ramble as of old, on the warm- 
gray shore-sands, my companions off in a boat in deeper water — 
(I shouting to them Jupiter's menaces against the gods, from 
Pope's Homer.) 

July 28 — to Long Branch. — 8)4 A. M., on the steamer " Ply- 
mouth Rock," foot of 23d street, New York, for Long Branch. 
Another fine day, fine sights, the shores, the snipping and bay — 
everything comforting to the body and spirit of me. (I find the 
human and objective atmosphere of New York city and Brook- 
lyn more affiliative to me than any other.) An hour later — Still 
on the steamer, now sniffing the salt very plainly — the long pul- 
sating swash as our boat steams seaward — the hills of Navesink 
and many passing vessels — the air the best part of all. At Long 

And if I pray, the only prayer 

That moves my lips for me, 
Is, leave the mind that now I bear, 

And give me Liberty. — Emily Bront?. 

I travel on not knowing, 

I would not if I might ; 
I would rather walk with God in the dark, 

Than go alone in the light ; 
I would rather walk with Him by faith 

Than pick my way by sight. 

Prof. Huxley in a late lecture. 

I myself agree with the sentiment of Thomas Hobbes, of Malmesbury, that 
M the scope of all speculation is the performance of some action or thing to be 
done." I have not any very great respect for, or interest in, mere " knowing," 
as such. 

Prince Metternick. 

Napoleon was of all men in the world the one who most profoundly de- 
spised the race. He had a marvellous insight into the weaker sides of human 
nature, (and all our passions are either foibles themselves, or the cause of foi- 
bles.) He was a very small man of imposing character. He was ignorant, 
as a sub-lieutenant generally is : a remarkable instinct supplied the lack of 
knowledge. From his mean opinion of men, he never had any anxiety lest 
he should go wrong. He ventur'd everything, and gain'd thereby an immense 
step toward success. Throwing himself upon a prodigious arena, he amaz'd 
the world, and made himself master of it, while others cannot even get so far 
as being masters of their own hearth. Then he went on and on, until he broke 
his neck. 



Branch the bulk of the day, stopt at a good hotel, took all very- 
leisurely, had an excellent dinner, and then drove for over two 
hours about the place, especially Ocean avenue, the finest drive 
one can imagine, seven or eight miles right along the beach. In 
all directions costly villas, palaces, millionaires — (but few among 
them I opine like my friend George W. Childs, whose personal 
integrity, generosity, unaffected simplicity, go beyond all worldly 


August. — In the big city awhile. Even the height of the dog- 
days, there is a good deal of fun about New York, if you only 
avoid fluster, and take all the buoyant wholesomeness that offers. 
More comfort, too, than most folks think. A middle-aged man, 
with plenty of money in his pocket, tells me that he has been off 
for a month to all the swell places, has disburs'd a small fortune, 
has been hot and out of kilter everywhere, and has return'd 
home and lived in New York city the last two weeks quite contented 
and happy. People forget when it is hot here, it is generally hot- 
ter still in other places. New York is so situated, with the great 
ozonic brine on both sides, it comprises the most favorable health- 
chances in the world. (If only the suffocating crowding of some 
of its tenement houses could be broken up.) I find I never suf- 
ficiently realized how beautiful are the upper two-thirds of Man- 
hattan island. I am stopping at Mott Haven, and have been 
familiar now for ten days with the region above One-hundredth 
street, and along the Harlem river and Washington heights. Am 
dwelling a few days with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. J., and 
a merry housefull of young ladies. Am putting the last touches 
on the printer's copy of my new volume of " Leaves of Grass " 
— the completed book at last. Work at it two or three hours, 
and then go down and loaf along the Harlem river ; have just 
had a good spell of this recreation. The sun sufficiently veil'd, 
a soft south breeze, the river full of small or large shells (light 
taper boats) darting up and down, some singly, now and then 
long ones with six or eight young fellows practicing — very in- 
spiriting sights. Two fine yachts lie anchor' d off the shore. I 
linger long, enjoying the sundown, the glow, the streak'd sky, the 
heights, distances, shadows. 

Aug. 10. — As I haltingly ramble an hour or two this forenoon 
by the more secluded parts of the shore, or sit under an old 
cedar half way up the hill, the city near in view, many young 
parties gather to bathe or swim, squads of boys, generally twos 
or threes, some larger ones, along the sand-bottom, or off an old 
pier close by. A peculiar and pretty carnival — at its height a 
hundred lads or young men, very democratic, but all decent be- 


having. The laughter, voices, calls, responses — the springing 
and diving of the bathers from the great string-piece of the de- 
cay'd pier, where climb or stand long ranks of them, naked, 
rose-color'd, with movements, postures ahead of any sculpture. 
To all this, the sun, so bright, the dark-green shadow of the hills 
the other side, the amber-rolling waves, changing as the tide comes 
in to a transparent tea-color — the frequent splash of the playful 
boys, sousing — the glittering drops sparkling, and the good west- 
ern breeze blowing. 

Went to-day to see this just-finish'd painting by John Mulvany, 
who has been out in far Dakota, on the spot, at the forts, and 
among the frontiersmen, soldiers and Indians, for the last two 
years, on purpose to sketch it in from reality, or the best that 
could be got of it. Sat for over an hour before the picture, com- 
pletely absorb' d in the first view. A vast canvas, I should say 
twenty or twenty-two feet by twelve, all crowded, and yet not 
crowded, conveying such a vivid play of color, it takes a little 
time to get used to it. There are no tricks ; there is no throw- 
ing of shades in masses ; it is all at first painfully real, over- 
whelming, needs good nerves to look at it. Forty or fifty figures, 
perhaps more, in full finish and detail in the mid-ground, with 
three times that number, or more, through the rest — swarms upon 
swarms of savage Sioux, in their war-bonnets, frantic, mostly on 
ponies, driving through the background, through the smoke, like 
a hurricane of demons. A dozen of the figures are wonderful. 
Altogether a western, autochthonic phase of America, the fron- 
tiers, culminating, typical, deadly, heroic to the uttermost — noth- 
ing in the books like it, nothing in Homer, nothing in Shak- 
spere ; more grim and sublime than either, all native, all our 
own, and all a fact. A great lot of muscular, tan -faced men, 
brought to bay under terrible circumstances — death ahold of 
them, yet every man undaunted, not one losing his head, wring- 
ing out every cent of the pay before they sell their lives. Custer 
(his hair cut short) stands in the middle, with dilated eye and 
extended arm, aiming a huge cavalry pistol. Captain Cook is 
there, partially wounded, blood on the white handkerchief around 
his head, aiming his carbine coolly, half kneeling — (his body 
was afterwards found close by Custer's.) The slaughter' d or half- 
slaughter' d horses, for breastworks, make a peculiar feature. Two 
dead Indians, herculean, lie in the foreground, clutching their 
Winchester rifles, very characteristic. The many soldiers, their 
faces and attitudes, the carbines, the broad-brimm'd western hats, 
the powder-smoke in puffs, the dying horses with their rolling eyes 
almost human in their agony, the clouds of war-bonneted Sioux 


in the background, the figures of Custer and Cook — with indeed 
the whole scene, dreadful, yet with an attraction and beauty that 
will remain in my memory. With all its color and fierce action, 
a certain Greek continence pervades it. A sunny sky and clear 
light envelop all. There is an almost entire absence of the 
stock traits of European war pictures. The physiognomy of the 
work is realistic and Western. I only saw it for an hour or so ; 
but it needs to be seen many times — needs to be studied over 
and over again. I could look on such a work at brief intervals 
all my life without tiring ; it is very tonic to me ; then it has an 
ethic purpose below all, as all great art must have. The artist 
said the sending of the picture abroad, probably to London, had 
been talk'd of. I advised him if it went abroad to take it to 
Paris. I think they might appreciate it there — nay, they cer- 
tainly would. Then I would like to show Messieur Crapeau 
that some things can be done in America as well as others. 

Aug. 16. — " Chalk a big mark for to-day," was one of the say- 
ings of an old sportsman-friend of mine, when he had had un- 
usually good luck — come home thoroughly tired, but with satis- 
factory results of fish or birds. Well, to-day might warrant such 
a mark for me. Everything propitious from the start. An hour's 
fresh stimulation, coming down ten miles of Manhattan island by 
railroad and 8 o'clock stage. Then an excellent breakfast at Pfaff's 
restaurant, 24th street. Our host himself, an old friend of mine, 
quickly appear'd on the scene to welcome me and bring up the 
news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in the 
cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, '59 and '60, and the jovial 
suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker street. Ah, 
the friends and names and frequenters, those times, that place. 
Most are dead — Ada Clare, Wilkins, Daisy Sheppard, O'Brien, 
Henry Clapp, Stanley, Mullin, Wood, Brougham, Arnold — all 
gone. And there Pfaff and I, sitting opposite each other at the 
little table, gave a remembrance to them in a style they would 
have themselves fully confirm'd, namely, big, brimming, fill'd- 
up champagne-glasses, drain'd in abstracted silence, very leisurely, 
to the last drop. (Pfaff is a generous German restaurateur, silent, 
stout, jolly, and I should say the best selecter of champagne in 


Perhaps the best is always cumulative. One's eating and drink- 
ing one wants fresh, and for the nonce, right off, and have done 
with it — but I would not give a straw for that person or poem, 
or friend, or city, or work of art, that was not more grateful the 


second time than the first — and more still the third. Nay, I do 
not believe any grandest eligibility ever comes forth at first. In 
my own experience, (persons, poems, places, characters,) I dis- 
cover the best hardly ever at first, (no absolute rule about it, how- 
ever,) sometimes suddenly bursting forth, or stealthily opening 
to me, perhaps after years of unwitting familiarity, unapprecia- 
tion, usage. 


Concord, Mass. — Out here on a visit — elastic, mellow, Indian- 
summery weather. Came to-day from Boston, (a pleasant ride of 
40 minutes by steam, through Somerville, Belmont, Waltham, Stony 
Brook, and other lively towns,) convoy'd by my friend F. B. 
Sanborn, and to his ample house, and the kindness and hospi- 
tality of Mrs. S. and their fine family. Am writing this under 
the shade of some old hickories and elms, just after 4 p.m., on the 
porch, within a stone's throw of the Concord river. Off against 
me, across stream, on a meadow and side-hill, haymakers are 
gathering and wagoning-in probably their second or third crop. 
The spread of emerald-green and brown, the knolls, the score or 
two of little haycocks dotting the meadow, the loaded-up wagons, 
the patient horses, the slow-strong action of the men and pitch- 
forks — all in the just-waning afternoon, with patches of yellow 
sun-sheen, mottled by long shadows — a cricket shrilly chirping, 
herald of the dusk — a boat with two figures noiselessly gliding 
along the little river, passing under the stone bridge-arch — the 
slight settling haze of aerial moisture, the sky and the peaceful- 
ness expanding in all directions and overhead — fill and soothe 

Same evening, — Never had I a better piece of luck befall me : 
a long and blessed evening with Emerson, in a way I couldn't 
have wish'd better or different. For nearly two hours he has 
been placidly sitting where I could see his face in the best light, 
near me. Mrs. S.'s back-parlor well fill'd with people, neighbors, 
many fresh and charming faces, women, mostly young, but some 
old. My friend A. B. Alcott and his daughter Louisa were there 
early. A good deal of talk, the subject Henry Thoreau — some 
new glints of his life and fortunes, with letters to and from him 
— one of the best by Margaret Fuller, others by Horace Greeley, 
Channing, &c. — one from Thoreau himself, most quaint and in- 
teresting. (No doubt I seem'd very stupid to the room-full of 
company, taking hardly any part in the conversation ; but I had 
"my own pail to milk in," as the Swiss proverb puts it.) My 
seat and the relative arrangement were such that, without being 
rude, or anything of the kind, I could just look squarely at E., 


which I did a good part of the two hours. On entering, he had 
spoken very briefly and politely to several of the company, then 
settled himself in his chair, a trifle push'd back, and, though a 
listener and apparently an alert one, remain'd silent through the 
whole talk and discussion. A lady friend quietly took a seat next 
him, to give special attention. A good color in his face, eyes clear, 
with the well-known expression of sweetness, and the old clear- 
peering aspect quite the same. 

Next Day. — Several hours at E.'s house, and dinner there. An 
old familiar house, (he has been in it thirty-five years,) with sur- 
roundings, furnishment, roominess, and plain elegance and full- 
ness, signifying democratic ease, sufficient opulence, and an ad- 
mirable old-fashioned simplicity — modern luxury, with its mere 
sumptuousness and affectation, either touch' d lightly upon or 
ignored altogether. Dinner the same. Of course the best of the 
occasion (Sunday, September 18, '81) was the sight of E. him- 
self. As just said, a healthy color in the cheeks, and good light 
in the eyes, cheery expression, and just the amount of talking 
that best suited, namely, a word or short phrase only where 
needed, and almost always with a smile. Besides Emerson himself, 
Mrs. E., with their daughter Ellen, the son Edward and his wife, 
with my friend F. S. and Mrs. S., and others, relatives and inti- 
mates. Mrs. Emerson, resuming the subject of the evening be- 
fore, (I sat next to her,) gave me further and fuller information 
about Thoreau, who, years ago, during Mr. E.'s absence in Eu- 
rope, had lived for some time in the family, by invitation. 


Though the evening at Mr. and Mrs. Sanborn's, and the mem- 
orable family dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Emerson's, have most pleas- 
antly and permanently fill'd my memory, I must not slight other 
notations of Concord. I went to the old Manse, walk'd through 
the ancient garden, enter'd the rooms, noted the quaintness, the 
unkempt grass and bushes, the little panes in the windows, the 
low ceilings, the spicy smell, the creepers embowering the light. 
Went to the Concord battle ground, which is close by, scann'd 
French's statue, " the Minute Man," read Emerson's poetic inscrip- 
tion on the base, linger' d a long while on the bridge, and stopp'd 
by the grave of the unnamed British soldiers buried there the day 
after the fight in April ' 75. Then riding on, (thanks to my friend 
Miss M. and her spirited white ponies, she driving them,) a half 
hour at Hawthorne's and Thoreau' s graves. I got out and went 
up of course on foot, and stood a long while and ponder'd. They 
lie close together in a pleasant wooded spot well up the cemetery 
hill, " Sleepy Hollow.' ' The flat surface of the first was densely 



cover' d by myrtle, with a border of arbor-vitae, and the other 
had a brown headstone, moderately elaborate, with inscriptions. 
By Henry's side lies his brother John, of whom much was ex- 
pected, but he died young. Then to Walden pond, that beauti- 
fully embower' d sheet of water, and spent over an hour there. 
On the spot in the woods where Thoreau had his solitary house 
is now quite a cairn of stones, to mark the place ; I too carried 
one and deposited on the heap. As we drove back, saw the 
"School of Philosophy," but it was shut up, and I would not 
have it open'd for me. Near by stopp'd at the house of W. T. 
Harris, the Hegelian, who came out, and we had a pleasant chat 
while I sat in the wagon. I shall not soon forget those Concord 
drives, and especially that charming Sunday forenoon one with 
my friend Miss M., and the white ponies. 


Oct. 10-13. — I spend a good deal of time on the Common, 
these delicious days and nights — every mid-day from 11.30 to 
about 1 — and almost every sunset another hour. I know all the 
big trees, especially the old elms along Tremont and Beacon 
streets, and have come to a sociable-silent understanding with 
most of them, in the sunlit air, (yet crispy-cool enough,) as I saun- 
ter along the wide unpaved walks. Up and down this breadth by 
Beacon street, between these same old elms, I walk'd for two 
hours, of a bright sharp February mid-day twenty-one years ago, 
with Emerson, then in his prime, keen, physically and morally 
magnetic, arm'd at every point, and when he chose, wielding the 
emotional just as well as the intellectual. During those two 
hours he was the talker and I the listener. It was an argument- 
statement, reconnoitring, review, attack, and pressing home, 
(like an army corps in order, artillery, cavalry, infantry,) of all 
that could be said against that part (and a main part) in the con- 
struction of my poems, " Children of Adam." More precious 
than gold to me that dissertation — it afforded me, ever after, 
this strange and paradoxical lesson ; each point of E.'s statement 
was unanswerable, no judge's charge ever more complete or con- 
vincing, I could never hear the points better put — and then I felt 
down in my soul the clear and unmistakable conviction to diso- 
bey all, and pursue my own way. " What have you to say then 
to such things?" said E., pausing in conclusion. " Only that 
while I can't answer them at all, I feel more settled than ever to 
adhere to my own theory, and exemplify it," was my candid re- 
sponse. Whereupon we went and had a good dinner at the 
American House. And thenceforward I never waver'd or was 
touch 'd with qualms, (as I confess I had been two or three times 




Nov., y 8i. — Again back in Camden. As I cross the Delaware 
in long trips to-night, between 9 and 11, the scene overhead is a 
peculiar one — swift sheets of flitting vapor-gauze, follow'd by 
dense clouds throwing an inky pall on everything. Then a spell 
of that transparent steel-gray black sky I have noticed under 
similar circumstances, on which the moon would beam for a few 
moments with calm lustre, throwing down a broad dazzle of 
highway on the waters; then the mists careering again. All si- 
lently, yet driven as if by the furies they sweep along, sometimes 
quite thin, sometimes thicker — a real Ossianic night — amid the 
whirl, absent or dead friends, the old, the past, somehow ten- 
derly suggested — while the Gael-strains chant themselves from 
the mists — [" Be thy soul blest, O Carril ! in the midst of thy 
eddying winds. O that thou woulds't come to my hall when I 
am alone by night ! And thou dost come, my friend. I hear 
often thy light hand on my harp, when it hangs on the distant 
wall, and the feeble sound touches my ear. Why dost thou not 
speak to me in my grief, and tell me when I shall behold my 
friends? But thou passest away in thy murmuring blast; the 
wind whistles through the gray hairs of Ossian."] 

But most of all, those changes of moon and sheets of hurrying 
vapor and black clouds, with the sense of rapid action in weird 
silence, recall the far-back Erse belief that such above were the 
preparations for receiving the wraiths of just-slain warriors — 
["We sat that night in Selma x round the strength of the shell. 
The wind was abroad in the oaks. The spirit of the mountain 
roar'd. The blast came rustling through the hall, and gently 
touch'd my harp. The sound was mournful and low, like the 
song of the tomb. Fingal heard it the first. The crowded sighs 
of his bosom rose. Some of my heroes are low, said the gray- 
hair'd king of Morven. I hear the sound of death on the harp. 
Ossian, touch the trembling string. Bid the sorrow rise, that their 
spirits may fly with joy to Morven's woody hills. I touch'd the 
harp before the king; the sound was mournful and low. Bend 
forward from your clouds, I said, ghosts of my fathers ! bend. 
Lay by the red terror of your course. Receive the falling chief; 
whether he comes from a distant land, or rises from the roll- 
ing sea. Let his robe of mist be near; his spear that is form'd 
of a cloud. Place a half-extinguish 'd meteor by his side, in 
the form of a hero's sword. And oh ! let his countenance be 
lovely, that his friends may delight in his presence. Bend from 
your clouds, I said, ghosts of my fathers, bend. Such was my 
song in Selma, to the lightly trembling harp."] 

How or why I know not, just at the moment, but I too muse 


and think of my best friends in their distant homes — of William 

O'Connor, of Maurice Bucke, of John Burroughs, and of Mrs. 

Gilchrist — friends of my soul — stanchest friends of my other 

soul, my poems. 


Jan. 12, '82. — Such a show as the Delaware presented an hour 
before sundown yesterday evening, all along between Philadel- 
phia and Camden, is worth weaving into an item. It was full 
tide, a fair breeze from the southwest, the water of a pale tawny 
color, and just enough motion to make things frolicsome and 
lively. Add to these an approaching sunset of unusual splendor, 
a broad fumble of clouds, with much golden haze and profusion 
of beaming shaft and dazzle. In the midst of all, in the clear 
drab of the afternoon light, there steam'd up the river the large, 
new boat, " the Wenonah," as pretty an object as you could wish 
to see, lightly and swiftly skimming along, all trim and white, 
cover'cf with flags, transparent red and blue, streaming out in the 
breeze. Only a new ferry-boat, and yet in its fitness comparable 
with the prettiest product of Nature's cunning, and rivaling it. 
High up in the transparent ether gracefully balanced and circled 
four or five great sea hawks, while here below, amid the pomp 
and picturesqueness of sky and river, swam this creation of arti- 
ficial beauty and motion and power, in its way no less perfect. 


Camden, April 3, '82. — I have just return 'd from an old forest 
haunt, where I love to go occasionally away from parlors, pave- 
ments, and the newspapers and magazines — and where, of a clear 
forenoon, deep in the shade of pines and cedars and a tangle of 
old laurel-trees and vines, the news of Longfellow's death first 
reach'd me. For want of anything better, let me lightly twine a 
sprig of the sweet ground-ivy trailing so plentifully through the 
dead leaves at my feet, with reflections of that half hour alone, 
there in the silence, and lay it as my contribution on the dead 
bard's grave. 

Longfellow in his voluminous works seems to me not only 
to be eminent in the style and forms of poetical expression 
that mark the present age, (an idiosyncrasy, almost asickness, of 
verbal melody,) but to bring what is always dearest as poetry to 
the general human heart and taste, and probably must be so in 
the nature of things. He is certainly the sort of bard and coun- 
teractant most needed for our materialistic, self-assertive, money- 
worshipping, Anglo-Saxon races, and especially for the present 
age in America — an age tyrannically regulated with reference to 
the manufacturer, the merchant, the financier, the politician and 




the day workman — for whom and among whom he comes as the 
poet of melody, courtesy, deference — poet of the mellow twilight 
of the past in Italy, Germany, Spain, and in Northern Europe — 
poet of all sympathetic gentleness — and universal poet of women 
and young people. I should have to think long if I were ask'd 
to name the man who has done more, and in more valuable di- 
rections, for America. 

I doubt if there ever was before such a fine intuitive judge and 
selecter of poems. His translations of many German and Scan- 
dinavian pieces are said to be better than the vernaculars. He 
does not urge or lash. His influence is like good drink or air. 
He is not tepid either, but always vital, with flavor, motion, grace. 
He strikes a splendid average, and does not sing exceptional pas- 
sions, or humanity's jagged escapades. He is not revolutionary, 
brings nothing offensive or new, does not deal hard blows. On 
the contrary, his songs soothe and heal, or if they excite, it is a 
healthy and agreeable excitement. His very anger is geYitle, is 
at second hand, (as in the " Quadroon Girl" and the "Wit- 

There is no undue element of pensiveness in Longfellow's 
strains. Even in the early translation, the Manrique, the move- 
ment is as of strong and steady wind or tide, holding up and buoy- 
ing. Death is not avoided through his many themes, but there 
is something almost winning in his original verses and render- 
ings on that dread subject — as, closing "the Happiest Land " 

And then the landlord's daughter 

Up to heaven rais'd her hand, 
And said, " Ye may no more contend, 
There lies the happiest land." 

To the ungracious complaint-charge of his want of racy na- 
tivity and special originality, I shall only say that America and 
the world may well be reverently thankful — can never be thankful 
enough — for any such singing-bird vouchsafed out of the centu- 
ries, v/ithout asking that the notes be different from those of other 
songsters ; adding what I have heard Longfellow himself say, 
that ere the New World can be worthily original, and announce 
herself and her own heroes, she must be well saturated with the 
originality of others, and respectfully consider the heroes that 
lived before Agamemnon. 

Reminiscences — (From the" Camden Courier. 1 *) — As I sat taking 
my evening sail across the Delaware in the staunch ferryboat 
" Beverly," a night or two ago, I was join'd by two young re- 
porter friends. " I have a message for you," said one of them ; 


" the C. folks told me to say they would like a piece sign'd by 
your name, to go in their first number. Can you do it for 
them?" "I guess so," said I; " what might it be about?" 
" Well, anything on newspapers, or perhaps what you've done 
yourself, starting them." And off the boys went, for we had 
reach'd the Philadelphia side. The hour was fine and mild, the 
bright half-moon shining; Venus, with excess of splendor, just 
setting in the west, and the great Scorpion rearing its length 
more than half up in the southeast. As I cross' d leisurely for 
an hour in the pleasant night-scene, my young friend's words 
brought up quite a string of reminiscences. 

I commenced when I was but a boy of eleven or twelve writ- 
ing sentimental bits for the old "Long Island Patriot," in 
Brooklyn; this was about 1832. Soon after, I had a piece or 
two in George P. Morris's then celebrated and fashionable "Mir- 
ror,", of New York city. I remember with what half-suppress' d 
excitement I used to watch for the big, fat, red-faced, slow-mov- 
ing, very old English carrier who distributed the "Mirror" in 
Brooklyn ; and when I got one. opening and cutting the leaves 
with trembling fingers. How it made my heart double-beat to 
see my piece on the pretty white paper, in nice type. 

My first real venture was the "Long Islander," in my own 
beautiful town of Huntington, in 1839. I was about twenty years 
old. I had been teaching country school for two or three years 
in various parts of Suffolk and Queens counties, but liked print- 
ing ; had been at it while a lad, learn'd the trade of compositor, 
and was encouraged to start a paper in the region where I was 
born. I went to New York, bought a press and types, hired some 
little help, but did most of the work myself, including the press- 
work. Everything seem'd turning out well ; (only my own rest- 
lessness prevented me gradually establishing a permanent property 
there.) I bought a good horse, and every week went all round 
the country serving my papers, devoting one day and night to it. 
I never had happier jaunts — going over to south side, to Babylon, 
down the south road, across to Smithtown and Comae, and back 
home. The experiences of those jaunts, the dear old-fashion 'd 
farmers and their wives, the stops by the hay-fields, the hospitality, 
nice dinners, occasional evenings, the girls, the rides through the 
brush, come up in my memory to this day. 

I next went to the "Aurora " daily in New York city — a sort 
of free lance. Also wrote regularly for the "Tattler," an even- 
ing paper. With these and a little outside work I was occupied 
off and on, until I went to edit the " Brooklyn Eagle," where for 
two years I had one of the pleasantest sits of my life — a good 
owner, good pay, and easy work and hours. The troubles in the 



Democratic party broke forth about those times (1848-' 49) and I 
split off with the radicals, which led to rows with the boss and 
" the party," and I lost my place. 

Being now out of a job, I was offer'd impromptu, (it hap- 
pen'd between the acts one night in the lobby of the old Broad- 
way theatre near Pearl street, New York city,) a good chance to 
go down to New Orleans on the staff of the <l Crescent," a daily 
to be started there with plenty of capital behind it. One of the 
owners, who was north buying material, met me walking in the 
lobby, and though that was our first acquaintance, after fifteen 
minutes' talk (and a drink) we made a formal bargain, and he 
paid me two hundred dollars down to bind the contract and bear 
my expenses to New Orleans. I started two days afterwards ; 
had a good leisurely time, as the paper wasn't to be out in three 
weeks. I enjoy'd my journey and Louisiana life much. Return- 
ing to Brooklyn a year or two afterward I started the " Free- 
man," first as a weekly, then daily. Pretty soon the secession 
war broke out, and I, too, got drawn in the current southward, 
and spent the following three years there, (as memorandized pre- 

Besides starting them as aforementioned, I have had to do, one 
time or another, during my life, with a long list of papers, at 
divers places, sometimes under queer circumstances. During the 
war, the hospitals at Washington, among other means of amuse- 
ment, printed a little sheet among themselves, surrounded by 
wounds and death, the "Armory Square Gazette," to which I 
contributed. The same long afterward, casually, to a paper — I 
think it was call'd the " Jimplecute" — out in Colorado where I 
stopp'd at the time. When I was in Quebec province, in Can- 
ada, in 1880, I went into the queerest little old French printing 
office near Tadousac. It was far more primitive and ancient than 
my Camden friend William Kurtz's place up on Federal street. 
I remember, as a youngster, several characteristic old printers of 
a kind hard to be seen these days. 


My thoughts went floating on vast and mystic currents as I 
sat to-day in solitude and half-shade by the creek — returning 
mainly to two principal centres. One of my cherish'd themes 
for a never-achiev'd poem has been the two impetuses of man 
and the universe — in the latter, creation's incessant unrest,* ex- 

* " Fifty thousand years ago the constellation of the Great Bear or Dipper 
was a starry cross ; a hundred thousand years hence the imaginary Dipper 
will be upside down, and the stars which form the bowl and handle will have 
changed places. The misty nebulae are moving, and besides are whirling 
around in great spirals, some one way, some another. Every molecule of 



foliation, (Darwin's evolution, I suppose.) Indeed, what is Na- 
ture but change, in all its visible, and still more its invisible pro- 
cesses ? Or what is humanity in its faith, love, heroism, poetry, 
even morals, but emotion ? 


May 6, '82. — We stand by Emerson's new-made grave without 
sadness — indeed a solemn joy and faith, almost hauteur — our soul- 
benison no mere 

" Warrior, rest, thy task is done," 

for one beyond the warriors of the world lies surely symboll'd 
here. A just man, poised on himself, all-loving, all-inclosing, 
and sane and clear as the sun. Nor does it seem so much Emer- 
son himself we are here to honor — it is conscience, simplicity, 
culture, humanity's attributes at their best, yet applicable if need 
be to average affairs, and eligible to all. So used are we to sup- 
pose a heroic death can only come from out of battle or storm, 
or mighty personal contest, or amid dramatic incidents or dan- 
ger, (have we not been taught so for ages by all the plays and 
poems ?) that few even of those who most sympathizingly mourn 
Emerson's late departure will fully appreciate the ripen'd gran- 
deur of that event, with its play of calm and fitness, like even- 
ing light on the sea. 

How I shall henceforth dwell on the blessed hours when, not 
long since, I saw that benignant face, the clear eyes, the silently 
smiling mouth, the form yet upright in its great age — to the very 
last, with so much spring and cheeriness, and such an absence of 
decrepitude, that even the term venerable hardly seem'd fitting. 

Perhaps the life now rounded and completed in its mortal de- 
velopment, and which nothing can change or harm more, has its 
most illustrious halo, not in its splendid intellectual or esthetic 
products, but as forming in its entirety one of the few, (alas ! 
how few !) perfect and flawless excuses for being, of the entire 
literary class. 

We can say, as Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, It is not we 
who come to consecrate the dead — we reverently come to receive, 
if so it may be, some consecration to ourselves and daily work 
from him. 

matter in the whole universe is swinging to and fro ; every particle of ether 
which fills space is in jelly-like vibration. Light is one kind of motion, heat 
another, electricity another, magnetism another, sound another. Every human 
sense is the result of emotion ; every perception, every thought is but motion 
of the molecules of the brain translated by that incomprehensible thing we 
call mind. The processes of growth, of existence, of decay, whether in 
worlds, or in the minutest organisms, are but motion." 




A letter to a German friend — extract. 

May 31, '82. — " From to-day I enter upon my 64th year. The 
paralysis that first affected me nearly ten years ago, has since re- 
main'd, with varying course — seems to have settled quietly down, 
and will probably continue. I easily tire, am very clumsy, can- 
not walk far; but my spirits are first-rate. I go around in public 
almost every day — now and then take long trips, by railroad or 
boat, hundreds of miles — live largely in the open air — am sun- 
burnt and stout, (weigh 190) — keep up my activity and interest 
in life, people, progress, and the questions of the day. About 
two-thirds of the time I am quite comfortable. What mentality 
I ever had remains entirely unaffected ; though physically I am 
a half-paralytic, and likely to be so, long as I live. But the 
principal object of my life seems to have been accomplish'd — I 
have the most devoted and ardent of friends, and affectionate 
relatives — and of enemies I really make no account." 


I tried to read a beautifully printed and scholarly volume on 
"the Theory of Poetry," received by mail this morning from 
England — but gave it up at last for a bad job. Here are some 
capricious pencillings that follow'd, as I find them in my notes : 

In youth and maturity Poems are charged with sunshine and 
varied pomp of day ; but as the soul more and more takes prece- 
dence, (the sensuous still included,) the Dusk becomes the 
poet's atmosphere. I too have sought, and ever seek, the bril- 
liant sun, and make my songs according. But as I grow old, the 
half-lights of evening are far more to me. 

The play of Imagination, with the sensuous objects of Na- 
ture for symbols, and Faith — with Love and Pride as the unseen 
impetus and moving-power of all, make up the curious chess- 
game of a poem. 

Common teachers or critics are always asking "What does it 
mean?" Symphony of fine musician, or sunset, or sea-waves 
rolling up the beach — what do they mean ? Undoubtedly in the 
most subtle-elusive sense they mean something — as love does, 
and religion does, and the best poem ; — but who shall fathom 
and define those meanings? (I do not intend this as a warrant 
for wildness and frantic escapades — but to justify the soul's fre- 
quent joy in what cannot be defined to the intellectual part, or 
to calculation.) 

At its best, poetic lore is like what may be heard of conversa- 
tion in the dusk, from speakers far or hid, of which we get only 


a few broken murmurs. What is not gather' d is far more — per- 
haps the main thing. 

Grandest poetic passages are only to be taken at free removes, 
as we sometimes look for stars at night, not by gazing directly 
toward them, but off one side. 

{To a poetic student and friend.) — I only seek to put you in 
rapport. Your own brain, heart, evolution, must not only under- 
stand the matter, but largely supply it. 


So draw near their end these garrulous notes. There have 
doubtless occurr'd some repetitions, technical errors in the con- 
secutiveness of dates, in the minutiae of botanical, astronomical, 
&c, exactness, and perhaps elsewhere ; — for in gathering up, 
writing, peremptorily dispatching copy, this hot weather, (last of 
July and through August, '82,) and delaying not the printers, I 
have had to hurry along, no time to spare. But in the deepest 
veracity of all — in reflections of objects, scenes, Nature's out- 
pourings, to my senses and receptivity, as they seem'd to me — 
in the work of giving those who care for it, some authentic 
glints, specimen-days of my life — and in the dona fide spirit and 
relations, from author to reader, on all the subjects design'd, and 
as far as they go, I feel to make unmitigated claims. 

The synopsis of my early life, Long Island, New York city, 
and so forth, and the diary-jottings in the Secession war, tell 
their own story. My plan in starting what constitutes most 
of the middle of the book, was originally for hints and data of 
a Nature-poem that should carry one's experiences a few hours, 
commencing at noon-flush, and so through the after-part of the 
day — I suppose led to such idea by own life's afternoon having 
arrived. But I soon found I could move at more ease, by giving 
the narrative at first hand. (Then there is a humiliating lesson 
one learns, in serene hours, of a fine day or night. Nature seems 
to look on all fixed-up poetry and art as something almost im- 

Thus I went on, years following, various seasons and areas, 
spinning forth my thought beneath the night and stars, (or as I 
was confined to my room by half-sickness,) or at midday looking 
out upon the sea, or far north steaming over the Saguenay's 
black breast, jotting all down in the loosest sort of chronological 
order, and here printing from my impromptu notes, hardly even 
the seasons group'd together, or anything corrected — so afraid 
of dropping what smack of outdoors or sun or starlight might 
cling to the lines, I dared not try to meddle with or smooth 
them. Every now and then, (not often, but for a foil,) I carried 


a book in my pocket — or perhaps tore out from some broken or 
cheap edition a bunch of loose leaves ; most always had some- 
thing of the sort ready, but only took it out when the mood de- 
manded. In that way, utterly out of reach of literary conven- 
tions, I re-read many authors. 

I cannot divest my appetite of literature, yet I find myself 
eventually trying it all by Nature — first premises many call it, 
but really the crowning results of all, laws, tallies and proofs. 
(Has it never occurr'd to any one how the last deciding tests ap- 
. plicable to a book are entirely outside of technical and grammat- 
ical ones, and that any truly first-class production has little or 
nothing to do with the rules and calibres of ordinary critics? or 
the bloodless chalk of Allibone's Dictionary ? I have fancied 
the ocean and the daylight, the mountain and the forest, putting 
their spirit in a judgment on our books. I have fancied some 
disembodied human soul giving its verdict.) 


Democracy most of all affiliates with the open air, is sunny 
and hardy and sane only with Nature — just as much as Art is. 
Something is required to temper both — to check them, restrain 
them from excess, morbidity. I have wanted, before departure, 
to bear special testimony to a very old lesson and requisite. 
American Democracy, in its myriad personalities, in factories, 
work-shops, stores, offices — through the dense streets and houses 
of cities, and all their manifold sophisticated life — must either 
be fibred, vitalized, by regular contact with out-door light and 
air and growths, farm-scenes, animals, fields, trees, birds, sun- 
warmth and free skies, or it will morbidly dwindle and pale. 
We cannot have grand races of mechanics, work people, and 
commonalty, (the only specific purpose of America,) on any less 
terms. I conceive of no flourishing and heroic elements of De- 
mocracy in the United States, or of Democracy maintaining 
itself at all, without the Nature-element forming a main part — to 
be its health-element and beauty-element — to really underlie the 
whole politics, sanity, religion and art of the New World. 

Finally, the morality: " Virtue," said Marcus Aurelius, "what 
is it, only a living and enthusiastic sympathy with Nature?" 
Perhaps indeed the efforts of the true poets, founders, religions, 
literatures, all ages, have been, and ever will be, our time and 
times to come, essentially the same — to bring people back from 
their persistent strayings and sickly abstractions, to the costless 
average, divine, original concrete. 




Though the ensuing Collect and preceding Specimen Days are both 
largely from memoranda already existing, the hurried peremptory needs of 
copy for the printers, already referr'd to — (the musicians' story of a com- 
poser up in a garret rushing the middle body and last of his score together, 
while the fiddlers are playing the first parts down in the concert-room) — 
of this haste, while quite willing to get the consequent stimulus of life and 
motion, I am sure there must have resulted sundry technical errors. If any 
are too glaring they will be corrected in a future edition. 

A special word about " Pieces in Early Youth," at the end. On jaunts 
over Long Island, as boy and young fellow, nearly half a century ago, I heard 
of, or came across in my own experience, characters, true occurrences, inci- 
dents, which I tried my 'prentice hand at recording — (I was then quite an 
"abolitionist" and advocate of the "temperance" and "anti-capital-punish- 
ment" causes) — and publish'd during occasional visits to New York city. A 
majority of the sketches appear'd first in the " Democratic Review," others in 
the " Columbian Magazine," or the " American Review," of that period. 
My serious wish were to have all those crude and boyish pieces quietly 
dropp'd in oblivion — but to avoid the annoyance of their surreptitious issue, 
(as lately announced, from outsiders,) I have, with some qualms, tack'd them 
on here. A Dough-Face Song came out first in the " Evening Post" — Blood- 
Money, and Wounded in the House of Friends, in the " Tribune." 

Poetry To-Day in America, &c, first appear'd (under the name of " The 
Poetry of the Future ,") in "The North American Review" for February, 
1 88 1. A Memorandum at a Venture, in same periodical, some time after- 

Several of the convalescent out-door scenes and literary items, preceding, 
originally appear'd in the fortnightly " Critic," of New York. 

( 202 ) 


As the greatest lessons of Nature through the universe are per- 
haps the lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the 
greatest lessons also in New World politics and progress. If a 
man were ask'd, for instance, the distinctive points contrasting 
modern European and American political and other life with the 
old Asiatic cultus, as lingering-bequeath'd yet in China and Tur- 
key, he might find the amount of them in John Stuart Mill's pro- 
found essay on Liberty in the future, where he demands two main 
constituents, or sub-strata, for a truly grand nationality — ist, a large 
variety of character — and 2d, full play for human nature to ex- 
pand itself in numberless and even conflicting directions — (seems 
to be for general humanity much like the influences that make 
up, in their limitless field, that perennial health-action of the air 
we call the weather — an infinite number of currents and forces, 
and contributions, and temperatures, and cross purposes, whose 
ceaseless play of counterpart upon counterpart brings constant 
restoration and vitality.) With this thought — and not for itself 
alone, but all it necessitates, and draws after it — let me begin my 

America, filling the present with greatest deeds and problems, 
cheerfully accepting the past, including feudalism, (as, indeed, 
the present is but the legitimate birth of the past, including feu- 
dalism,) counts, as I reckon, for her justification and success, (for 
who, as yet, dare claim success?) almost entirely on the future. 
Nor is that hope unwarranted. To-day, ahead, though dimly 
yet, we see, in vistas, a copious, sane, gigantic offspring. For our 
New World I consider far less important for what it has done, or 
what it is, than for results to come. Sole among nationalities, 
these States have assumed the task to put in forms of lasting 
power and practicality, on areas of amplitude rivaling the op- 
erations of the physical kosmos, the moral political speculations 
of ages, long, long deferr'd, the democratic republican principle, 
and the theory of development and perfection by voluntary stan- 
dards, and self-reliance. Who else, indeed, except the United 

( 203 ) 


States, in history, so far, have accepted in unwitting faith, and, 
as we now see, stand, act upon, and go security for, these things? 
But preluding no longer, let me strike the key-note of the fol- 
lowing strain. First premising that, though the passages of it 
have been written at widely different times, (it is, in fact, a col- 
lection of memoranda, perhaps for future designers, comprehend- 
ers,) and though it may be open to the charge of one part con- 
tradicting another — for there are opposite sides to the great 
question of democracy, as to every great question — I feel the 
parts harmoniously blended in my own realization and convic- 
tions, and present them to be read only in such oneness, each 
page and each claim and assertion modified and temper'd by the 
others. Bear in mind, too, that they are not the result of study- 
ing up in political economy, but of the ordinary sense, observ- 
ing, wandering among men, these States, these stirring years of 
war and peace. I will not gloss over the appaling dangers of 
universal suffrage in the United States. In fact, it is to admit 
and face these dangers I am writing. To him or her within 
whose thought rages the battle, advancing, retreating, between 
democracy's convictions, aspirations, and the people's crudeness, 
vice, caprices, I mainly write this essay. I shall use the words 
America and democracy as convertible terms. Not an ordinary 
one is the issue. The United States are destined either to sur- 
mount the gorgeous history of feudalism, or else prove the most 
tremendous failure of time. Not the least doubtful am I on any 
prospects of their material success. The triumphant future of 
their business, geographic and productive departments, on larger 
scales and in more varieties than ever, is certain. In those re- 
spects the republic must soon (if she does not already) outstrip 
all examples hitherto afforded, and dominate the world.* 

* " From a territorial area of less than nine hundred thousand square miles, 
the Union has expanded into over four millions and a half — fifteen times larger 
than that of Great Britain and France combined — with a shore-line, including 
Alaska, equal to the entire circumference of the earth, and with a domain 
within these lines far wider than that of the Romans in their proudest days of 
conquest and renown. With a river, lake, and coastwise commerce estimated 
at over two thousand millions of dollars per year; with a railway traffic of 
four to six thousand millions per year, and the annual domestic exchanges of 
the country running up to nearly ten thousand millions per year; with over 
two thousand millions of dollars invested in manufacturing, mechanical, and 
mining industry ; with over five hundred millions of acres of land in actual 
occupancy, valued, with their appurtenances, at over seven thousand millions 
of dollars, and producing annually crops valued at over three thousand mil- 
lions of dollars ; with a realm which, if the density of Belgium's population 
were possible, would be vast enough to include all the present inhabitants of 
the world ; and with equal rights guaranteed to even the poorest and humblest 
of our forty millions of people — we can, with a manly pride akin to that which 


Admitting all this, with the priceless value of our political in- 
stitutions, general suffrage, (and fully acknowledging the latest, 
widest opening of the doors,) I say that, far deeper than these, 
what finally and only is to make of our western world a nation- 
ality superior to any hither known, and outtopping the past, must 
be vigorous, yet unsuspected Literatures, perfect personalities 
and sociologies, original, transcendental, and expressing (what, 
in highest sense, are not yet express'd at all,) democracy and the 
modern. With these, and out of these, I promulge new races of 
Teachers, and of perfect Women, indispensable to endow the 
birth-stock of a New World. For feudalism, caste, the ecclesi- 
astic traditions, though palpably retreating from political insti- 
tutions, still hold essentially, by their spirit, even in this country, 
entire possession of the more important fields, indeed the very 
subsoil, of education, and of social standards and literature. 

I say that democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, un- 
til it founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, 
schools, theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been pro- 
duced anywhere in the past, under opposite influences. It is cu- 
rious to me that while so many voices, pens, minds, in the press, 
lecture-rooms, in our Congress, &c, are discussing intellectual 
topics, pecuniary dangers, legislative problems, the suffrage, 
tariff and labor questions, and the various business and benevo- 
lent needs of America, with propositions, remedies, often worth 
deep attention, there is one need, a hiatus the profoundest, that 
no eye seems to perceive, no voice to state. Our fundamental 
want to-day in the United States, with closest, amplest reference 
to present conditions, and to the future, is of a class, and the 

distinguish'd the palmiest days of Rome, claim," &c., &c, &c. — Vice-Presi- 
dent Coif ax* s Speech, July 4, 1870. 

Later — London " Times," ( Weekly,) June 23, '82. 
" The wonderful wealth-producing power of the United States defies and 
sets at naught the grave drawbacks of a mischievous protective tariff, and has 
already obliterated, almost wholly, the traces of the greatest of modern civil 
wars. What is especially remarkable in the present development of American 
energy and success is its wide and equable distribution. North and south, 
east and west, on the shores of the Atlantic and the Pacific, along the chain 
of the great lakes, in the valley of the Mississippi, and on the coasts of the 
gulf of Mexico, the creation of wealth and the increase of population are 
signally exhibited. It is quite true, as has been shown by the recent appor- 
tionment of population in the House of Representatives, that some^sections 
of the Union have advanced, relatively to the rest, in an extraordinary and 
unexpected degree. But this does not imply that the States which have gain'd 
no additional representatives or have actually lost some have been stationary 
or have receded. The fact is that the present tide of prosperity has risen so 
high that it has overflow' d all barriers, and has fill'd up the back-waters, and 
establish'd something like an approach to uniform success." 

20 6 COLLECT. 

clear idea of a class, of native authors, literatuses, far different, 
far higher in grade than any yet known, sacerdotal, modern, fit 
to cope with our occasions, lands, permeating the whole mass of 
American mentality, taste, belief, breathing into it a new breath 
of life, giving it decision, affecting politics far more than the 
popular superficial suffrage, with results inside and underneath 
the elections of Presidents or Congresses — radiating, begetting 
appropriate teachers, schools, manners, and, as its grandest result, 
accomplishing, (what neither the schools nor the churches and 
their clergy have hitherto accomplished, and without which this 
nation will no more stand, permanently, soundly, than a house 
will stand without a substratum,) a religious and moral character 
beneath the political and productive and intellectual bases of the 
States. For know you not, dear, earnest reader, that the people 
of our land may all read and write, and may all possess the right 
to vote — and yet the main things may be entirely lacking? — (and 
this to suggest them.) 

View'd, to-day, from a point of view sufficiently over-arching, 
the problem of humanity all over the civilized world is social 
and religious, and is to be finally met and treated by literature. 
The priest departs, the divine literatus comes. Never was any- 
thing more wanted than, to-day, and here in the States, the poet 
of the modern is wanted, or the great literatus of the modern. 
At all times, perhaps, the central point in any nation, and that 
whence it is itself really sway'd the most, and whence it sways 
others, is its national literature, especially its archetypal poems. 
Above all previous lands, a great original literature is surely to 
become the justification and reliance, (in some respects the sole 
reliance,) of American democracy. 

Few are aware how the great literature penetrates all, gives hue 
to all, shapes aggregates and individuals, and, after subtle ways, 
with irresistible power, constructs, sustains, demolishes at will. 
Why tower, in reminiscence, above all the nations of the earth, 
two special lands, petty in themselves, yet inexpressibly gigantic, 
beautiful, columnar? Immortal Judah lives, and Greece immor- 
tal lives, in a couple of poems. 

Nearer than this. It is not generally realized, but it is true, 
as the genius of Greece, and all the sociology, personality, poli- 
tics and religion of those wonderful states, resided in their liter- 
ature or esthetics, that what was afterwards the main support of 
European chivalry, the feudal, ecclesiastical, dynastic world over 
there — forming its osseous structure, holding it together for hun- 
dreds, thousands of years, preserving its flesh and bloom, giving 
it form, decision, rounding it out, and so saturating it in the 
conscious and unconscious blood, breed, belief, and intuitions 



of men, that it still prevails powerful to this day, in defiance of 
the mighty changes of time — was its literature, permeating to 
the very marrow, especially that major part, its enchanting songs, 
ballads, and poems.* 

To the ostent of the senses and eyes, I know, the influences 
which stamp the world's history are wars, uprisings or downfalls 
of dynasties, changeful movements of trade, important inven- 
tions, navigation, military or civil governments, advent of pow- 
erful personalities, conquerors, &c. These of course play their 
part ; yet, it may be, a single new thought, imagination, ab- 
stract principle, even literary style, fit for the time, put in shape 
by some great literatus, and projected among mankind, may duly 
cause changes, growths, removals, greater than the longest and 
bloodiest war, or the most stupendous merely political, dynastic, 
or commercial overturn. 

In short, as, though it may not be realized, it is strictly true, 
that a few first-class poets, philosophs, and authors, have substan- 
tially settled and given status to the entire religion, education, 
law, sociology, &c, of the hitherto civilized world, by tinging 
and often creating the atmospheres out of which they have arisen, 
such also must stamp, and more than ever stamp, the interior and 
real democratic construction of this American continent, to-day, 
and days to come. Remember also this fact of difference, that, 
while through the antique and through the mediaeval ages, highest 
thoughts and ideals realized themselves, and their expression made 
its way by other arts, as much as, or even more than by, technical 
literature, (not open to the mass of persons, or even to the ma- 
jority of eminent persons,) such literature in our day and for 
current purposes, is not only more eligible than all the other arts 
put together, but has become the only general means of morally 
influencing the world. Painting, sculpture, and the dramatic 
theatre, it would seem, no longer play an indispensable or even 
important part in the workings and mediumship of intellect, 
utility, or even high esthetics. Architecture remains, doubtless 

* See, for hereditaments, specimens, Walter Scott's Border Minstrelsy, 
Percy's collection, Ellis's early English Metrical Romances, the European 
continental poems of Walter of Aquitania, and the Nibelungen, of pagan 
stock, but monkish-feudal redaction ; the history of the Troubadours, by Fau- 
riel ; even the far-back cumbrous old Hindu epics, as indicating the Asian 
eggs out of which European chivalry was hatch'd; Ticknor's chapters on 
the Cid, and on the Spanish poems and poets of Calderon's time. Then always, 
and, of course, as the superbest poetic culmination-expression of feudalism, 
the Shaksperean dramas, in the attitudes, dialogue, characters, &c, of the 
princes, lords and gentlemen, the pervading atmosphere, the implied and ex- 
press'd standard of manners, the high port and proud stomach, the regal em- 
broidery of style, &c. 


with capacities, and a real future. Then music, the combiner, 
nothing more spiritual, nothing more sensuous, a god, yet com- 
pletely human, advances, prevails, holds highest place ; supplying 
in certain wants and quarters what nothing else could supply. 
Yet in the civilization of to-day it is undeniable that, over all 
the arts, literature dominates, serves beyond all — shapes the char- 
acter of church and school — or, at any rate, is capable of doing 
so. Including the literature of science, its scope is indeed un- 

Before proceeding further, it were perhaps well to discriminate 
on certain points. Literature tills its crops in many fields, and 
some may flourish, while others lag. What I say in these Vistas 
has its main bearing on imaginative literature, especially poetry, 
the stock of all. In the department of science, and the specialty 
of journalism, there appear, in these States, promises, perhaps ful- 
filments, of highest earnestness, reality, and life. These, of course, 
are modern. But in the region of imaginative, spinal and essen- 
tial attributes, something equivalent to creation is, for our age and 
lands, imperatively demanded. For not only is it not enough 
that the new blood, new frame of democracy shall be vivified and 
held together merely by political means, superficial suffrage, legis- 
lation, &c, but it is clear to me that, unless it goes deeper, gets 
at least as firm and as warm a hold in men's hearts, emotions and 
belief, as, in their days, feudalism or ecclesiasticism/and inaugu- 
rates its own perennial sources, welling from the centre forever, 
its strength will be defective, its growth doubtful, and its main 
charm wanting. I suggest, therefore, the possibility, should some 
two or three really original American poets, (perhaps artists or 
lecturers,) arise, mounting the horizon like planets, stars of the 
first magnitude, that, from their eminence, fusing contributions, 
races, far localities, &c, together, they would give more compac- 
tion and more moral identity, (the quality to-day most needed,) 
to these States, than all its Constitutions, legislative and judicial 
ties, and all its hitherto political, warlike, or materialistic expe- 
riences. As, for instance, there could hardly happen anything 
that would more serve the States, with all their variety of origins, 
their diverse climes, cities^standards, &c, than possessing an ag- 
gregate of heroes, characters, exploits, sufferings, prosperity or 
misfortune, glory or disgrace, common to all, typical of all — no 
less, but even greater would it be to possess the aggregation of a 
cluster of mighty poets, artists, teachers, fit for us, national ex- 
presses, comprehending and effusing for the men and women of 
the States, what is universal, native, common to all, inland and 
seaboard, northern and southern. The historians say of ancient 
Greece, with her ever-jealous autonomies, cities, and states, that 



the only positive unity she ever own'd or receiv'd, was the sad 
unity of a common subjection, at the last, to foreign conquerors. 
Subjection, aggregation of that sort, is impossible to America ; 
but the fear of conflicting and irreconcilable interiors, and the 
lack of a common skeleton, knitting all close, continually haunts 
me. Or, if it does not, nothing is plainer than the need, a long 
period to come, of a fusion of the States into the only reliable 
identity, the moral and artistic one. For, I say, the true nation- 
ality of the States, the genuine union, when we come to a mortal 
crisis, is, and is to be, after all, neither the written law, nor, (as 
is generally supposed,) either self-interest, or common pecuniary 
or material objects — but the fervid and tremendous Idea, melt- 
ing everything else with resistless heat, and solving all lesser and 
definite distinctions in vast, indefinite, spiritual, emotional power. 

It may be claim'd, (and I admit the weight of the claim,) that 
common and general worldly prosperity, and a populace well-to- 
do, and with all life's material comforts, is the main thing, and 
is enough. It may be argued that our republic is, in perform- 
ance, really enacting to-day the grandest arts, poems, &c, by 
beating up the wilderness into fertile farms, and in her railroads, 
ships, machinery, &c. And it may be ask'd, Are these not bet- 
ter, indeed, for America, than any utterances even of greatest 
rhapsode, artist, or literatus? 

I too hail those achievements with pride and joy : then answer 
that the soul of man will not with such only — nay, not with such 
at all — be finally satisfied ; but needs what, (standing on these 
and on all things, as the feet stand on the ground,) is address'd 
to the loftiest, to itself alone. 

Out of such considerations, such truths, arises for treatment in 
these Vistas the important question of character, of an American 
stock-personality, with literatures and arts for outlets and return- 
expressions, and, of course, to correspond, within outlines com- 
mon to all. To these, the main affair, the thinkers of the United 
States, in general so acute, have. either given feeblest attention, 
or have remain'd, and remain, in a state of somnolence. 

For my part, I would alarm and caution even the political and 
business reader, and to the utmost extent, against the prevailing 
delusion that the establishment of free political institutions, and 
plentiful intellectual smartness, with general good order, physi- 
cal plenty, industry, &c, (desirable and precious advantages as 
they all are,) do, of themselves, determine and yield to our ex- 
periment of democracy the fruitage of success. With such ad- 
vantages at present fully, or almost fully, possess'd — the Union 
just issued, victorious, from the struggle with the only foes it 



need ever fear, namely, those within itself, the interior ones,) 
and with unprecedented materialistic advancement — society, in 
these States, is canker'd, crude, superstitious, and rotten. Politi- 
cal, or law-made society is, and private, or voluntary society, is 
also. In any vigor, the element of the moral conscience, the 
most important, the verteber to State or man, seems to me either 
entirely lacking, or seriously enfeebled or ungrown. 

I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the 
face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was 
there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here 
in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The 
underlying principles of the States are not honestly believ'd in, 
(for all this hectic glow, and these melo-dramatic screamings,) 
nor is humanity itself believ'd in. What penetrating eye does 
not everywhere see through the mask ? The spectacle is appaling. 
We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men be- 
lieve not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful 
superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the litterateurs 
is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, &c, 
the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion. 
Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, 
the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalcula- 
ble. An acute and candid person, in the revenue department in 
Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to reg- 
ularly visit the cities, north, south and west, to investigate frauds, 
has talk'd much with me about his discoveries. The depravity 
of the business classes of our country is not less than has been 
supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, 
national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and depart- 
ments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, 
falsehood, maladministration ; and the judiciary is tainted. The 
great cities reek with respectable as much as non- respectable rob- 
bery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid 
amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to 
kill time. In business, (this all-devouring modern word, busi- 
ness,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The 
magician's serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents ; and. 
money-making is our magician's serpent, remaining to-day sole 
master of the field. The best class we show, is but a mob of 
fashionably dress'd speculators and vulgarians. True, indeed, 
behind this fantastic farce, enacted on the visible stage of society, 
solid things and stupendous labors are to be discover'd, existing 
crudely and going on in the background, to advance and tell 
themselves in time. Yet the truths are none the less terrible. I 
say that our New World democracy, however great a success in 


uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic develop- 
ment, products, and in a certain highly-deceptive superficial 
popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete failure in 
its social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral, literary, 
and esthetic results. In vain do we march with unprecedented 
strides to empire so colossal, outvying the antique, beyond Alex- 
ander's, beyond the proudest sway of Rome. In vain have we 
annex' d Texas, California, Alaska, and reach north for Canada 
and south for Cuba. It is as if we were somehow being endow'd 
with a vast and more and more thoroughly-appointed body, and 
then left with little or no soul. 

Let me illustrate further, as I write, with current observations, 
localities, &c. The subject is important, and will bear repeti- 
tion. After an absence, I am now again (September, 1870) in 
New York city and Brooklyn, on a few weeks' vacation. The 
splendor, picturesqueness, and oceanic amplitude and rush of 
these great cities, the unsurpass'd situation, rivers and bay, 
sparkling sea-tides, costly and lofty new buildings, facades of 
marble and iron, of original grandeur and elegance of design, 
with the masses of gay color, the preponderance of white and 
blue, the flags flying, the endless ships, the tumultuous streets, 
Broadway, the heavy, low, musical roar, hardly ever intermitted, 
even at night ; the jobbers' houses, the rich shops, the wharves, 
the great Central Park, and the Brooklyn Park of hills, (as I 
wander among them this beautiful fall weather, musing, watch- 
ing, absorbing) — the assemblages of the citizens in their groups, 
conversations, trades, evening amusements, or along the by-quar- 
ters — these, I say, and the like of these, completely satisfy my 
senses of power, fulness, motion, &c, and give me, through 
such senses and appetites, and through my esthetic conscience, 
a continued exaltation and absolute fulfilment. Always and 
more and more, as I cross the East and North rivers, the 
ferries, or with the pilots in their pilot-houses, or pass an hour in 
Wall street, or the gold exchange, I realize, (if we must admit 
such partialisms,) that not Nature alone is great in her fields of 
freedom and the open air, in her storms, the shows of night and 
day, the mountains, forests, seas — but in the artificial, the work 
of man too is equally great — in this profusion of teeming hu- 
manity — in these ingenuities, streets, goods, houses, ships — these 
hurrying, feverish, electric crowds of men, their complicated 
business genius, (not least among the geniuses,) and all this 
mighty, many-threaded wealth and industry concentrated here. 

But sternly discarding, shutting our eyes to the glow and gran- 
deur of the general superficial effect, coming down to what is of 
the only real importance, Personalities, and examining minutely, 


we question, we ask, Are there, indeed, men here worthy the 
name ? Are there athletes ? Are there perfect women, to match 
the generous material luxuriance ? Is there a pervading atmosphere 
of beautiful manners ? Are there crops of fine youths, and majestic 
old persons? Are there arts worthy freedom and a rich peo- 
ple? Is there a great moral and religious civilization — the only 
justification of a great material one? Confess that to severe 
eyes, using the moral microscope upon humanity, a sort of dry 
and flat Sahara appears, these cities, crowded with petty gro- 
tesques, malformations, phantoms, playing meaningless antics. 
Confess that everywhere, in shop, street, church, theatre, bar- 
room, official chair, are pervading flippancy and vulgarity, low 
cunning, infidelity — everywhere the youth puny, impudent, fop- 
pish, prematurely ripe — everywhere an abnormal libidinousness, 
unhealthy forms, male, female, painted, padded, dyed, chignon'd, 
muddy complexions, bad blood, the capacity for good mother- 
hood deceasing or deceas'd, shallow notions of beauty, with a 
range of manners, or rather lack of manners, (considering the 
advantages enjoy'd,) probably the meanest to be seen in the 

Of all this, and these lamentable conditions, to breathe into 
them the breath recuperative of sane and heroic life, I say a new 
founded literature, not merely to copy and reflect existing sur- 
faces, or pander to what is called taste — not only to amuse, pass 
away time, celebrate the beautiful, the refined, the past, or exhibit 
technical, rhythmic, or grammatical dexterity — but a literature 
underlying life, religious, consistent with science, handling the 
elements and forces with competent power, teaching and training 
men — and, as perhaps the most precious of its results, achieving 
the entire redemption of woman out of these incredible holds 
and webs of silliness, millinery, and every kind of dyspeptic de- 
pletion — and thus insuring to the States a strong and sweet Fe- 
male Race, a race of perfect Mothers — is what is needed. 

* Of these rapidly-sketch'd hiatuses, the two which seem to me most se- 
rious are, for one, the condition, absence, or perhaps the singular abeyance, 
of moral conscientious fibre all through American society ; and, for another, 
the appaling depletion of women in their powers of sane athletic maternity, 
their crowning attribute, and ever making the woman, in loftiest spheres, su- 
perior to the man. 

I have sometimes thought, indeed, that the sole avenue and means of a re- 
constructed sociology depended, primarily, on a new birth, elevation, expan- 
sion, invigoration of woman, affording, for races to come, (as the conditions 
that antedate birth are indispensable,) a perfect motherhood. Great, great, 
indeed, far greater than they know, is the sphere of women. But doubtless 
the question of such new sociology all goes together, includes many varied 
and complex influences and premises, and the man as well as the woman, and 
the woman as well as the man. 



And now, in the full conception of these facts and points, and 
all that they infer, pro and con — with yet unshaken faith in the 
elements of the American masses, the composites, of both sexes, 
and even consider'd as individuals — and ever recognizing in them 
the broadest bases of the best literary and esthetic appreciation 
— I proceed with my speculations, Vistas. 

First, let us see what we can make out of a brief, general, sen- 
timental consideration of political democracy, and whence it 
has arisen, with regard to some of its current features, as an ag- 
gregate, and as the basic structure of our future literature and 
authorship. We shall, it is true, quickly and continually find the 
origin-idea of the singleness of man, individualism, asserting it- 
self, and cropping forth, even from the opposite ideas. But the 
mass, or lump character, for imperative reasons, is to be ever 
carefully weigh'd, borne in mind, and provided for. Only from- 
it, and from its proper regulation and potency, comes the other, 
comes the chance of individualism. The two are contradictory, 
but our task is to reconcile them.* 

The political history of the past may be summ'd up as having 
grown out of what underlies the words, order, safety, caste, and 
especially out of the need of some prompt deciding authority, 
and of cohesion at all cost. Leaping time, we come to the period 
within the memory of people now living, when, as from some 
lair where they had slumber' d long, accumulating wrath, sprang 
up and are yet active, (1790, and on even to the present, 1870,) 
those noisy eructations, destructive iconoclasms, a fierce sense of 
wrongs, amid which moves the form, well known in modern 
history, in the old world, stain'd with much blood, and mark'd 
by savage reactionary clamors and demands. These bear, mostly, 
as on one inclosing point of need. 

For after the rest is said — after the many time-honor' d and 
really true things for subordination, experience, rights of prop- 
erty, &c, have been listen' d to and acquiesced in — after the val- 
uable and well-settled statement of our duties and relations in 
society is thoroughly conn'd over and exhausted — it remains to 
bring forward and modify everything else with the idea of that 
Something a man is, (last precious consolation of the drudging 

* The question hinted here is one which time only can answer. Must not 
the virtue of modern Individualism, continually enlarging, usurping all, se- 
riously affect, perhaps keep down entirely, in America, the like of the ancient 
virtue of Patriotism, the fervid and absorbing love of general country? I 
have no doubt myself that the two will merge, and will mutually profit and 
brace each other, and that from them a greater product, a third, will arise. 
But I feel that at present they and their oppositions form a serious problem 
and paradox in the United States. 


poor,) standing apart from all else, divine in his own right, and 
a woman in hers, sole and untouchable by any canons of au- 
thority, or any rule derived from precedent, state-safety, the acts 
of legislatures, or even from what is called religion, modesty, or 
art. The radiation of this truth is the key of the most significant 
doings of our immediately preceding three centuries, and has 
been the political genesis and life of America. Advancing visi- 
bly, it still more advances invisibly. Underneath the fluctuations 
of the expressions of society, as well as the movements of the 
politics of the leading nations of the world, we see steadily press- 
ing ahead and strengthening itself, even in the midst of immense 
tendencies toward aggregation, this image of completeness in 
separatism, of individual personal dignity, of a single person, 
either male or female, characterized in the main, not from ex- 
trinsic acquirements or position, but in the pride of himself or 
herself alone ; and, as an eventual conclusion and summing up, 
(or else the entire scheme of things is aimless, a cheat, a crash,) 
the simple idea that the last, best dependence is to be upon hu- 
manity itself, and its own inherent, normal, full-grown qualities, 
without any superstitious support whatever. This idea of per- 
fect individualism it is indeed that deepest tinges and gives char- 
acter to the idea of the aggregate. For it is mainly or alto- 
gether to serve independent separatism that we favor a strong 
generalization, consolidation. As it is to give the best vitality 
and freedom to the rights of the States, (every bit as important 
as the right of nationality, the union,) that we insist on the iden- 
tity of the Union at all hazards. 

The purpose of democracy — supplanting old belief in the 
necessary absoluteness of establish'd dynastic rulership, temporal, 
ecclesiastical, and scholastic, as furnishing the only security 
against chaos, crime, and ignorance — is, through many transmi- 
grations, and amid endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible 
failures, to illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that 
man, properly train'd in sanest, highest freedom, may and must 
become a law, and series of laws, unto himself, surrounding and 
providing for, not only his own personal control, but all his re- 
lations to other individuals, and to the State ; and that, while 
other theories, as in the past histories of nations, have proved 
wise enough, and indispensable perhaps for their conditions, this, 
as matters now stand in our civilized world, is the only scheme 
worth working from, as warranting results like those of Nature's 
laws, reliable, when once establish'd, to carry on themselves. 

The argument of the matter is extensive, and, we admit, by no 
means all on one side. What we shall offer will be far, far from 
sufficient. But while leaving unsaid much that should properly 



even prepare the way for the treatment of this many-sided ques- 
tion of political liberty, equality, or republicanism — leaving the 
whole history and consideration of the feudal plan and its prod- 
ucts, embodying humanity, its politics and civilization, through 
the retrospect of past time, (which plan and products, indeed, 
make up all of the past, and a large part of the present) — 
leaving unanswer'd, at least by any specific and local answer, 
many a well-wrought argument and instance, and many a con- 
scientious declamatory cry and warning — as, very lately, from 
an eminent and venerable person abroad* — things, problems, full 
of doubt, dread, suspense, (not new to me, but old occupiers of 
many an anxious hour in city's din, or night's silence,) we still 
may give a page or so, whose drift is opportune. Time alone 
can finally answer these things. But as a substitute in passing, 
let us, even if fragmentarily, throw forth a short direct or indirect 
suggestion of the premises of that other plan, in the new spirit, 
under the new forms, started here in our America. 

As to the political section of Democracy, which introduces 
and breaks ground for further and vaster sections, few probably 
are the minds, even in these republican States, that fully compre- 
hend the aptness of that phrase, "the government of the 
People, by the People, for the People," which we inherit 
from the lips of Abraham Lincoln ; a formula whose verbal shape 
is homely wit, but whose scope includes both the totality and all 
minutiae of the lesson. 

The People ! Like our huge earth itself, which, to ordinary scan- 
sion, is full of vulgar contradictions and offence, man, viewed in 
the lump, displeases, and is a constant puzzle and affront to the 
merely educated classes. The rare, cosmical, artist-mind, lit 
with the Infinite, alone confronts his manifold and oceanic 
qualities — but taste, intelligence and culture, (so-called,) have 
been against the masses, and remain so. There is plenty of gla- 
mour about the most damnable crimes and hoggish meannesses, 
special and general, of the feudal and dynastic world over there, 
with its personnel of lords and queens and courts, so well-dress'd 

* " Shooting Niagara." — I was at first roused to much anger and abuse 
by this essay from Mr. Carlyle, so insulting to the theory of America — but 
happening to think afterwards how I had more than once been in the like 
mood, during which his essay was evidently cast, and seen persons and things 
in the same light, (indeed some might say there are signs of the same feeling 
in these Vistas) — I have since read it again, not only as a study, expressing as it 
does certain judgments from the highest feudal point of view, but have read 
it with respect as coming from an earnest soul, and as contributing certain 
sharp-cutting metallic grains, which, if not gold or silver, may be good hard, 
honest iron. 


and so handsome. But the People are urigrammatical, untidy, 
and their sins gaunt and ill-bred. 

Literature, strictly consider'd, has never recognized the People, 
and, whatever may be said, does not to-day. Speaking generally, 
the tendencies of literature, as hitherto pursued, have been to 
make mostly critical and querulous men. It seems as if, so far, 
there were some natural repugnance between a literary and pro- 
fessional life, and the rude rank spirit of the democracies. There 
is, in later literature, a treatment of benevolence, a charity busi- 
ness, rife enough it is true ; but I know nothing more rare, even 
in this country, than a fit scientific estimate and reverent appre- 
ciation of the People — of their measureless wealth of latent power 
and capacity, their vast, artistic contrasts of lights and shades — 
with, in America, their entire reliability in emergencies, and a 
certain breadth of historic grandeur, of peace or war, far surpass- 
ing all the vaunted samples of book-heroes, or any haut ton 
coteries, in all the records of the world. 

The movements of the late secession war, and their results, to 
any sense that studies well and comprehends them, show that 
popular democracy, whatever its faults and dangers, practically 
justifies itself beyond the proudest claims and wildest hopes of its 
enthusiasts. Probably no future age can know, but I well know, 
how the gist of this fiercest and most resolute of the world's war- 
like contentions resided exclusively in the unnamed, unknown 
rank and file ; and how the brunt of its labor of death was, to all 
essential purposes, volunteer'd. The People, of their own choice, 
fighting, dying for their own idea, insolently attack'd by the 
secession-slave-power, and its very existence imperil'd. Descend- 
ing to detail, entering any of the armies, and mixing with the 
private soldiers, we see and have seen august spectacles. We have 
seen the alacrity with which the American-born populace, the 
peaceablest and most good-natured race in the world, and trie most 
personally independent and intelligent, and the least fitted to 
submit to the irksomeness and exasperation of regimental disci- 
pline, sprang, at the first tap of the drum, to arms — not for gain, 
nor even glory, nor to repel invasion — but for an emblem, a mere 
abstraction — for the life, the safety of the flag. We have seen the 
unequal' d docility and obedience of these soldiers. We have seen 
them tried long and long by hopelessness, mismanagement, and 
by defeat ; have seen the incredible slaughter toward or through 
which the armies, (as at first Fredericksburg, and afterward at the 
Wilderness,) still unhesitatingly obey'd orders to advance. We 
have seen them in trench, or crouching behind breastwork, or 
tramping in deep mud, or amid pouring rain or thick-falling snow, 
or under forced marches in hottest summer (as on the road to get 


to Gettysburg) — vast suffocating swarms, divisions, corps, with 
every single man so grimed and black with sweat and dust, his 
own mother would not have known him — his clothes all dirty, 
stain' d and torn, with sour, accumulated sweat for perfume — many 
a comrade, perhaps a brother, sun-struck, staggering out, dying, 
by the roadside, of exhaustion — yet the great bulk bearing steadily 
on, cheery enough, hollow-bellied from hunger, but sinewy with 
unconquerable resolution. 

We have seen this race proved by wholesale by drearier, yet 
more fearful tests — the wound, the amputation, the shatter'd face 
or limb, the slow hot fever, long impatient anchorage in bed, 
and all the forms of maiming, operation and disease. Alas ! 
America have we seen, though only in her early youth, already to 
hospital brought. There have we watch'd these soldiers, many 
of them only boys in years — mark'd their decorum, their religious 
nature and fortitude, and their sweet affection. Wholesale, truly. 
For at the front, and through the camps, in countless tents, stood 
the regimental, brigade and division hospitals ; while everywhere 
amid the land, in or near cities, rose clusters of huge, white- 
washed, crowded, one-story wooden barracks; and there ruled 
agony with bitter scourge, yet seldom brought a cry; and there 
stalk'd death by day and night along the narrow aisles between 
the rows of cots, or by the blankets on the ground, and touch'd 
lightly many a poor sufferer, often with blessed, welcome touch. 

I know not whether I shall be understood, but I realize that it 
is finally from what I learn'd personally mixing in such scenes 
that I am now penning these pages. One night in the gloomiest 
period of the war, in the Patent office hospital in Washington 
city, as I stood by the bedside of a Pennsylvania soldier, who 
lay, conscious of quick approaching death, yet perfectly calm, 
and with noble, spiritual manner, the veteran surgeon, turning 
aside, said to me, that though he had witness'd many, many 
deaths of soldiers, and had been a worker at Bull Run, Antietam, 
Fredericksburg, &c, he had not seen yet the first case of man or 
boy that met the approach of dissolution with cowardly qualms 
or terror. My own observation fully bears out the remark. 

What have we here, if not, towering above all talk*and argu- 
ment, the plentifully-supplied, last-needed proof of democracy, 
in its personalities? Curiously enough, too, the proof on this 
point comes, I should say, every bit as much from the south, as 
from the north. Although I have spoken only of the latter, yet 
I deliberately include all. Grand, common stock ! to me the 
accomplished and convincing growth, prophetic of the future; 
proof undeniable to sharpest sense, of perfect beauty, tenderness 
and pluck, that never feudal lord, nor Greek, nor Roman breed, 



yet rival'd. Let no tongue ever speak in disparagement of the 
American races, north or south, to one who has been through the 
war in the great army hospitals. 

Meantime, general humanity, (for to that we return, as, for our 
purposes, what it really is, to bear in mind,) has always, in every 
department, been full of perverse maleficence, and is so yet. In 
downcast hours the soul thinks it always will be — but soon re- 
covers from such sickly moods. I myself see clearly enough the 
crude, defective streaks in all the strata of the common people ; 
the specimens and vast collections of the ignorant, the credulous, 
the unfit and uncouth, the incapable, and the very low and poor. 
The eminent person just mention'd sneeringly asks whether we 
expect to elevate and improve a nation's politics by absorbing 
such morbid collections and qualities therein. The point is a 
formidable one, and there will doubtless always be numbers of 
solid and reflective citizens who will never get over it. Our an- 
swer is general, and is involved in the scope and letter of this 
essay. We believe the ulterior object of political and all other 
government, (having, of course, provided for the police, the safety 
of life, property, and for the basic statute and common law, and 
their administration, always first in order,) to be among the rest, 
not merely to rule, to repress disorder, &c, but to develop, to 
open up to cultivation, to encourage the possibilities of all be- 
neficent and manly outcroppage, and of that aspiration for inde- 
pendence, and the pride and self-respect latent in all characters. 
(Or, if there be exceptions, we cannot, fixing our eyes on them 
alone, make theirs the rule for all.) 

I say the mission of government, henceforth, in civilized lands., 
is not repression alone, and not authority alone, not even of law, 
nor by that favorite standard of the eminent writer, the rule of 
the best men, the born heroes and captains of the race, (as if 
such ever, or one time out of a hundred, get into the big places, 
elective or dynastic) — but higher than the highest arbitrary rule, 
to train communities through all their grades, beginning with in- 
dividuals and ending there again, to rule themselves. What 
Christ appear'd for in the moral-spiritual field for human-kind, 
namely, that in respect to the absolute soul, there is in the pos- 
session of such by each single individual, something so tran- 
scendent, so incapable of gradations, (like life,) that, to that ex- 
tent, it places all beings on a common level, utterly regardless of 
the distinctions of intellect, virtue, station, or any height or low- 
liness whatever — is tallied in like manner, in this other field, by 
democracy's rule that men, the nation, as a common aggregate of 
living identities, affording in each a separate and complete sub- 
ject for freedom, worldly thrift and happiness, and for a fair 


chance for growth, and for protection in citizenship, &c, must, 
to the political extent of the suffrage or vote, if no further, be 
placed, in each and in the whole, on one broad, primary, univer- 
sal, common platform. 

The purpose is not altogether direct ; perhaps it is more indi- 
rect. For it is not that democracy is of exhaustive account, 
in itself. Perhaps, indeed, it is, (like Nature,) of no account in 
itself. It is that, as we see, it is the best, perhaps only, fit and 
full means, formulater, general caller-forth, trainer, for the mil- 
lion, not for grand material personalities only, but for immortal 
souls. To be a voter with the rest is not so much ; and this, like 
every institute, will have its imperfections. But to become an 
enfranchised man, and now, impediments removed, to stand and 
start without humiliation, and equal with the rest ; to commence, 
or have the road clear' d to commence, the grand experiment of 
development, whose end, (perhaps requiring several generations,) 
may be the forming of a full-grown man or woman — that is 
something. To ballast the State is also secured, and in our times 
is to be secured, in ho other way. 

We do not, (at any rate I do not,) put it either on the ground 
that the People, the masses, even the best of them, are, in their 
latent or exhibited qualities, essentially sensible and good — nor 
on the ground of their rights; but that good or bad, rights or 
no rights, the democratic formula is the only safe and preserva- 
tive one for coming times. We endow the masses with the suf- 
frage for their own sake, no doubt ; then, perhaps still more, 
from another point of view, for community's sake. Leaving the 
rest to the sentimentalists, we present freedom as sufficient in its 
scientific aspect, cold as ice, reasoning, deductive, clear and 
passionless as crystal. 

Democracy too is law, and of the strictest, amplest kind. 
Many suppose, (and often in its own ranks the error,) that it 
means a throwing aside of law, and running riot. But, briefly, 
it is the superior law, not alone that of physical force, the body, 
which, adding to, it supersedes with that of the spirit. Law is 
the unshakable order of the universe forever ; and the law over 
all, and law of laws, is the law of successions ; that of the supe- 
rior law, in time, gradually supplanting and overwhelming the 
inferior one. (While, for myself, I would cheerfully agree — first 
covenanting that the formative tendencies shall be administer'd 
in favor, or at least not against it, and that this reservation be 
closely construed — that until the individual or community show 
due signs, or be so minor and fractional as not to endanger the 
State, the condition of authoritative tutelage may continue, and 
self-government must abide its time.) Nor is the esthetic point, 


always an important one, without fascination for highest aiming 
souls. The common ambition strains fpr elevations, to become 
some privileged exclusive. The master sees greatness and health 
in being part of the mass ; nothing will do as well as common 
ground. Would you have in yourself the divine, vast, general 
law? Then merge yourself in it. 

And, topping democracy, this most alluring record, that it 
alone can bind, and ever seeks to bind, all nations, all men, of 
however various and distant lands, into a brotherhood, a family. 
It is the old, yet ever-modern dream of earth, out of her eldest 
and her youngest, her fond philosophers and poets. Not that 
half only, individualism, which isolates. There is another half, 
which is adhesiveness or love, that fuses, ties and aggregates, 
making the races comrades, and fraternizing all. Both are to be 
vitalized by religion, (sole worthiest elevator of man or State,) 
breathing into the proud, material tissues, the breath of life. For 
I say at the core of democracy, finally, is the religious element. 
All the religions, old and new, are there. Nor may the scheme 
step forth, clothed in resplendent beauty and command, till these, 
bearing the best, the latest fruit, the spiritual, shall fully ap- 

A portion of our pages we might indite with reference toward 
Europe, especially the British part of it, more than our own land, 
perhaps not absolutely needed for the home reader. But the 
whole question hangs together, and fastens and links all peoples. 
The liberalist of to-day has this advantage over antique or medi- 
eval times, that his doctrine seeks not only to individualize but to 
universalize. The great word Solidarity has arisen. Of all dan- 
gers to a nation, as things exist in our day, there can be no greater 
one than having certain portions of the people set off from the 
rest by a line drawn — they not privileged as others, but degraded, 
humiliated, made of no account. Much quackery teems, of 
course, even on democracy's side, yet does not really affect the 
orbic quality of the matter. To work in, if we may so term it? 
and justify God, his divine aggregate, the People, (or, the veri- 
table horn'd and sharp-tail'd Devil, his aggregate, if there be 
who convulsively insist upon it) — this, I say, is what democracy 
is for; and this is what our America means, and is doing — may 
I not say, has done? If not, she means nothing more, and does 
nothing more, than any other land. And as, by virtue of its 
kosmical, antiseptic power, Nature's stomach is fully strong 
enough not only to digest the morbific matter always presented, 
not to be turn'd aside, and perhaps, indeed, intuitively gravitat- 
ing thither — but even to change such contributions into nutri- 
ment for highest use and life — so American democracy's. That 


is the lesson we, these days, send over to European lands by every 
western breeze. 

And, truly, whatever may be said in the way of abstract argu- 
ment, for or against the theory of a wider democratizing of insti- 
tutions in any civilized country, much trouble might well be 
saved to all European lands by recognizing this palpable fact, (for 
a palpable fact it is,) that some form of such democratizing is 
about the only resource now left. That, or chronic dissatisfac- 
tion continued, mutterings which grow annually louder and 
louder, till, in due course, and pretty swiftly in most cases, the 
inevitable crisis, crash, dynastic ruin. Anything worthy to be 
call'd statesmanship in the Old World, I should say, among the 
advanced students, adepts, or men of any brains, does not de- 
bate 'to-day whether to hold on, attempting to lean back and 
monarchize, or to look forward and democratize — but how, and 
in what degree and part, most prudently to democratize. 

The eager and often inconsiderate appeals of reformers and 
revolutionists are indispensable, to counterbalance the inertness 
and fossilism making so large a part of human institutions. The 
latter will always take care of themselves — the danger being that 
they rapidly tend to ossify us. The former is to be treated with 
indulgence, and even with respect. As circulation to air, so is 
agitation and a plentiful degree of speculative license to political 
and moral sanity. Indirectly, but surely, goodness, virtue, law, 
(of the very best,) follow freedom. These, to democracy, are 
what the keel is to the ship, or saltness to the ocean. 

The true gravitation-hold of liberalism in the United States 
will be a more universal ownership of property, general home- 
steads, general comfort — avast, intertwining reticulation of wealth. 
As the human frame, or, indeed, any object in this manifold 
universe, is best kept together by the simple miracle of its own 
cohesion, and the necessity, exercise and profit thereof, so a great 
and varied nationality, occupying millions of square miles, were 
firmest held and knit by the principle of the safety and endur- 
ance of the aggregate of its middling property owners. So that, 
from another point of view, ungracious as it may sound, and a 
paradox after what we have been saying, democracy looks with 
suspicious, ill-satisfied eye upon the very poor, the ignorant, and 
on those out of business. She asks for men and women with 
occupations, well-off, owners of houses and acres, and with cash 
in the bank — and with some cravings for literature, too ; and 
must have them, and hastens to make them. Luckily, the seed 
is already well-sown, and has taken ineradicable root.* 

* For fear of mistake, I may as well distinctly specify, as cheerfully in. 
eluded in the model and standard of these Vistas, a practical, stirring, worldly, 

2 22 COLLECT. 

Huge and mighty are our days, our republican lands — and most 
in their rapid shiftings, their changes, all in the interest of the 
cause. As I write this particular passage, (November, 1868,) the 
din of disputation rages around me. Acrid the temper of the 
parties, vital the pending questions. Congress convenes; the 
President sends his message ; reconstruction is still in abeyance ; 
the nomination and the contest for the twenty-first Presidentiad 
draw close, with loudest threat and bustle. Of these, and all 
the like of these, the eventuations I know not ; but well I know 
that behind them, and whatever their eventuations, the vital 
things remain safe and certain, and all the needed work goes on. 
Time, with soon or later superciliousness, disposes of Presidents, 
Congressmen, party platforms, and such. Anon, it clears the 
stage of each and any mortal shred that thinks itself so potent 
to its day ; and at and after which, (with precious, golden ex- 
ceptions once or twice in a century,) all that relates to sir po- 
tency is flung to moulder in a burial-vault, and no one bothers 
himself the least bit about it afterward. But the People ever re- 
main, tendencies continue, and all the idiocratic transfers in 
unbroken chain go on. 

In a few years the dominion-heart of America will be far in- 
land, toward the West. Our future national capital may not be 
where the present one is. It is possible, nay likely, that in less 
than fifty years, it will migrate a thousand or two miles, will be 
re-founded, and every thing belonging to it made on a different 
plan, original, far more superb. The main social, political, spine- 
character of the States will probably run along the Ohio, Mis- 
souri and Mississippi rivers, and west and north of them, in- 
cluding Canada. Those regions, with the group of powerful 
brothers toward the Pacific, (destined to the mastership of that 
sea and its countless paradises of islands,) will compact and set- 
tle the traits of America, with all the old retain'd, but more ex- 
panded, grafted on newer, hardier, purely native stock. A giant 
growth, composite from the rest, getting their contribution, ab- 
sorbing it, to make it more illustrious. From the north, intel- 
lect, the sun of things, also the idea of unswayable justice, an- 

money-making, even materialistic character. It is undeniable that our farms, 
stores, offices, dry-goods, coal and groceries, enginery, cash-accounts, trades, 
earnings, markets, &c, should be attended to in earnest, and actively pur- 
sued, just as if they had a real and permanent existence. I perceive clearly 
that the extreme business energy, and this almost maniacal appetite for wealth 
prevalent in the United States, are parts of amelioration and progress, indis- 
pensably needed to prepare the very results I demand. My theory includes 
riches, and the getting of riches, and the amplest products, power, activity, 
inventions, movements, &c. Upon them, as upon substrata, I raise the edi- 
fice design'd in these Vistas. 



chor amid the last, the wildest tempests. From the south the 
living soul, the animus of good and bad, haughtily admitting no 
demonstration but its own. While from the west itself comes 
solid personality, with blood and brawn, and the deep quality of 
all-accepting fusion. 

Political democracy, as it exists and practically works in 
America, with all its threatening evils, supplies a training-school 
for making first-class men. ' It is life's gymnasium, not of good 
only, but of all. We try often, though we fall back often. A 
brave delight, fit for freedom's athletes, fills these arenas, and fully 
satisfies, out of the action in them, irrespective of success. What- 
ever we do not attain, we at any rate attain the experiences of 
the fight, the hardening of the strong campaign, and throb with 
currents of attempt at least. Time is ample. Let the victors 
come after us. Not for nothing does evil play its part among 
us. Judging from the main portions of the history of the world, 
so far, justice is always in jeopardy, peace walks amid hourly pit- 
falls, and of slavery, misery, meanness, the craft of tyrants and 
the credulity of the populace, in some of their protean forms, 
no voice can at any time say, They are not. The clouds break a 
little, and the sun shines out — but soon and certain the lowering 
darkness falls again, as if to last forever. Yet is there an im- 
mortal courage and prophecy in every sane soul that cannot, 
must not, under any circumstances, capitulate. Vive, the attack — 
the perennial assault ! Vive, the unpopular cause — the spirit that 
audaciously aims — the never-abandon'd efforts, pursued the same 
amid opposing proofs and precedents. 

Once, before the war, (Alas ! I dare not say how many times 
the mood has come !) I, too, was fill'd with doubt and gloom. A 
foreigner, an acute and good man, had impressively said to me, 
that day — putting in form, indeed, my own observations : " I have 
travel'd much in the United States, and watch'd their politi- 
cians, and listen'd to the speeches of the candidates, and read 
the journals, and gone into the public houses, and heard the un- 
guarded talk of men. And I have found your vaunted America 
honeycomb'd from top to toe with infidelism, even to itself and 
its own programme. I have mark'd the brazen hell-faces of se- 
cession and slavery gazing defiantly from all the windows and 
doorways. I have everywhere found, primarily, thieves and scal- 
liwags arranging the nominations to offices, and sometimes filling 
the offices themselves. I have found the north just as full of bad 
stuff as the south. Of the holders of public office in the Na- 
tion or the States or their municipalities, I have found that not 
one in a hundred has been chosen by any spontaneous selection 


of the outsiders, the people, but all have been nominated and 
put through by little or large caucuses of the politicians, and 
have got in by corrupt rings and electioneering, not capacity or 
desert. I have noticed how the millions of sturdy farmers and 
mechanics are thus the helpless supple-jacks of comparatively few- 
politicians. And I have noticed more and more, the alarming 
spectacle of parties usurping the government, and openly and 
shamelessly wielding it for party purposes." 

Sad, serious, deep truths. Yet are there other, still deeper, 
amply confronting, dominating truths. Over those politicians 
and great and little rings, and over all their insolence and wiles, 
and over the powerfulest parties, looms a power, too sluggish may- 
be, but ever holding decisions and decrees in hand, ready, with 
stern process, to execute them as soon as plainly needed — and at 
times, indeed, summarily crushing to atoms the mightiest parties, 
even in the hour of their pride. 

In saner hours far different are the amounts of these things 
from what, at first sight, they appear. Though it is no doubt 
important who is elected governor, mayor, or legislator, (and full 
of dismay when incompetent or vile ones get elected, as they 
sometimes do,) there are other, quieter contingencies, infinitely 
more important. Shams, &c, will always be the show, like 
ocean's scum ; enough, if waters deep and clear make up the 
rest. Enough, that while the piled embroider' d shoddy gaud 
and fraud spreads to the superficial eye, the hidden warp and 
weft are genuine, and will wear forever. Enough, in short, that 
the race, the land which could raise such as the late rebellion, 
could also put it down. 

The average man of a land at last only is important. He, in 
these States, remains immortal owner and boss, deriving good 
uses, somehow, out of any sort of servant in office, even the basest; 
(certain universal requisites, and their settled regularity and pro- 
tection, being first secured,) a nation like ours, in a sort of geo- 
logical formation state, trying continually new experiments, choos- 
ing new delegations, is not served by the best men only, but 
sometimes more by those that provoke it — by the combats they 
arouse. Thus national rage, fury, discussion, &c, better than 
content. Thus, also, the warning signals, invaluable for after 

What is more dramatic than the spectacle we have seen re- 
peated, and doubtless long shall see — the popular judgment taking 
the successful candidates on trial in the offices — standing off, as 
it were, and observing them and their doings for a while, and al- 
ways giving, finally, the fit, exactly due reward? I think, after 
all, the sublimest part of political history, and its culmination, 



is currently issuing from the American people. I know nothing 
grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of 
the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well- 
contested American national election. 

Then still the thought returns, (like the thread -passage in over- 
tures,) giving the key and echo to these pages. When I pass to 
and fro, different latitudes, different seasons, beholding the crowds 
of the great cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, 
Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, New Orleans, Baltimore — when 
I mix with these interminable swarms of alert, turbulent, good- 
natured, independent citizens, mechanics, clerks, young persons 
— at the idea of this mass of men, so fresh and free, so loving 
and so proud, a singular awe falls upon me. I feel, with dejec- 
tion and amazement, that among our geniuses and talented 
writers or speakers, few or none have yet really spoken to this 
people, created a single image-making work for them, orabsorb'd 
the central spirit and the idiosyncrasies which are theirs — and 
which, thus, in highest ranges, so far remain entirely uncelebrated, 

'Dominion strong is the body's; dominion stronger is the 
mind's. What has fill'd, and fills to-day our intellect, our fancy, 
furnishing the standards therein, is yet foreign. The great poems, 
Shakspere included, are poisonous to the idea of the pride and 
dignity of the common people, the life-blood of democracy. The 
models of our literature, as we get it from other lands, ultra- 
marine, have had their birth in courts, and bask'd and grown in 
castle sunshine ; all smells of princes' favors. Of workers of a 
certain sort, we have, indeed, plenty, contributing after their 
kind ; many elegant, many learn'd, all complacent. But touch' d 
by the national test, or tried by the standards of democratic per- 
sonality, they wither to ashes. I say I have not seen a single writer, 
artist, lecturer, or what not, that has confronted the voiceless 
but ever erect and active, pervading, underlying will and typic 
aspiration of the land, in a spirit kindred to itself. Do you call 
those genteel little creatures American poets? Do you term that 
perpetual, pistareen, paste-pot work, American art, American 
drama, taste, verse? I think I hear, echoed as from some moun- 
tain-top afar in the west, the scornful laugh of the Genius of these 

Democracy, in silence, biding its time, ponders its own ideals, 
not of literature and art only — not of men only, but of women. 
The idea of the women of America, (extricated from this daze, 
this fossil and unhealthy air which hangs about the word /ady,) 
develop' d, raised to become the robust equals, workers, and, it 


may be, even practical and political deciders with the men — 
greater than man, we may admit, through their divine maternity, 
always their towering, emblematical attribute — but great, at any 
rate, as man, in all departments ; or, rather, capable of being so, 
soon as they realize it, and can bring themselves to give up toys 
and fictions, and launch forth, as men do, amid real, independent, 
stormy life. 

Then, as towards our thought's finale, (and, in that, overarch- 
ing the true scholar's lesson,) we have to say there can be no com- 
plete or epical presentation of democracy in the aggregate, or any- 
thing like it, at this day, because its doctrines will only be effect- 
ually incarnated in any one branch, when, in all, their spirit is at 
the root and centre. Far, far, indeed, stretch, in distance, our 
Vistas ! How much is still to be disentangled, freed ! How 
long it takes to make this American world see that it is, in itself, 
the final authority and reliance ! 

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elec- 
tions, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only 
of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruits 
in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between men, and 
their beliefs — in religion, literature, colleges, and schools — de- 
mocracy in all public and private life, and in the army and navy.* 
I have intimated that, as a paramount scheme, it has yet few or 
no full realizers and believers. I do not see, either, that it owes 
any serious thanks to noted propagandists or champions, or has 
been essentially help'd, though often harm'd, by them. It has 
been and is carried on by all the moral forces, and by trade, 
finance, machinery, intercommunications, and, in fact, by all the 
developments of history, and can no more be stopp'd than the 
tides, or the earth in its orbit. Doubtless, also, it resides, crude 
and latent, well down in the hearts of the fair average of the 
American-born people, mainly in the agricultural regions. But it 
is not yet, there or anywhere, the fully-receiv'd, the fervid, the 
absolute faith. 

I submit, therefore, that the fruition of democracy, on aught 
like a grand scale, resides altogether in the future. As, under 
any profound and comprehensive view of the gorgeous-composite 
feudal world, we see in it, through the long ages and cycles of 
ages, the results of a deep, integral, human and divine princi- 

* The whole present system of the officering and personnel of the army and 
navy of these States, and the spirit and letter of their trebly-aristocratic rules 
and regulations, is a monstrous exotic, a nuisance and revolt, and belong 
here just as much as orders of nobility, or the Pope's council of cardinals. I 
say if the present theory of our army and navy is sensible and true, then the 
rest of America is an unmitigated fraud. 


pie, or fountain, from which issued laws, ecclesia, manners, 
institutes, costumes, personalities, poems, (hitherto unequall'd,) 
faithfully partaking of their source, and indeed only arising 
either to betoken it, or to furnish parts of that varied-flow- 
ing display, whose centre was one and absolute — so, long ages 
hence, shall the due historian or critic make at least an equal 
retrospect, an equal history for the democratic principle. It 
too must be adorn'd, credited with its results — then, when it, 
with imperial power, through amplest time, has dominated man- 
kind — has been the source and test of all the moral, esthetic, 
social, political, and religious expressions and institutes of the 
civilized world — has begotten them in spirit and in form, and 
has carried them to its own unprecedented heights — has had, (it 
is possible,) monastics and ascetics, more numerous, more de- 
vout than the monks and priests of all previous creeds — has 
sway'd the ages with a breadth and rectitude tallying Nature's 
own — has fashion'd, systematized, and triumphantly finish' d and 
carried out, in its own interest, and with unparallel'd success, a 
new earth and a new man. 

Thus we presume to write, as it were, upon things that exist 
not, and travel by maps yet unmade, and a blank. But the 
throes of birth are upon us ; and we have something of this ad- 
vantage in seasons of strong formations, doubts, suspense — for 
then the afflatus of such themes haply may fall upon us, more or 
less; and then, hot from surrounding war and revolution, our 
speech, though without polish'd coherence, and a failure by the 
standard called criticism, comes forth, real at least as the light- 

And may-be we, these days, have, too, our own reward — (for 
there are yet some, in all lands, worthy to be so encouraged.) 
Though not for us the joy of entering at the last the conquer'd 
city — not ours the chance ever to see with our own eyes the peer- 
less power and splendid eclat of the democratic principle, arriv'd 
at meridian, filling the world with effulgence and majesty far be- 
yond those of past history's kings, or all dynastic sway — there is 
yet, to whoever is eligible among us, the prophetic vision, the 
joy of being toss'd in the brave turmoil of these times — the pro- 
mulgation and the path, obedient, lowly reverent to the voice, 
the gesture of the god, or holy ghost, which others see not, hear 
not — with the proud consciousness that amid whatever clouds, 
seductions, or heart-wearying postponements, we have never de- 
serted, never despair'd, never abandon'd the faith. 

So much contributed, to be conn'd well, to help prepare and 
brace our edifice, our plann'd Idea — we still proceed to give it in 


another of its aspects — perhaps the main, the high facade of all. 
For to democracy, the leveler, the unyielding principle of the 
average, is surely join'd another principle, equally unyielding, 
closely tracking the first, indispensable to it, opposite, (as the 
sexes are opposite,) and whose existence, confronting and ever 
modifying the other, often clashing, paradoxical, yet neither of 
highest avail without the other, plainly supplies to these grand 
cosmic politics of ours, and to the launch'd forth mortal dangers 
of republicanism, to-day or any day, the, counterpart and offset 
whereby Nature restrains the deadly original relentlessness of all 
her first-class laws. This second principle is individuality, the 
pride and centripetal isolation of a human being in himself — 
identity — personalism. Whatever the name, its acceptance and 
thorough infusion through the organizations of political com- 
monalty now shooting Aurora-like about the world, are of utmost 
importance, as the principle itself is needed for very life's sake. 
It forms, in a sort, or is to form, the compensating balance- 
wheel of the successful working machinery of aggregate America. 
And, if we think of it, what does civilization itself rest upon — 
and what object has it, with its religions, arts, schools, &c, but 
rich, luxuriant, varied personalism ? To that, all bends ; and it 
is because toward such result democracy alone, on anything like 
Nature's scale, breaks up the limitless fallows of humankind, and 
plants the seed, and gives fair play, that its claims now precede 
the rest. The literature, songs, esthetics, &c, of a country are 
of importance principally because they furnish the materials and 
suggestions of personality for the women and men of that coun- 
try, and enforce them in a thousand effective ways.* As the top- 

* After the rest is satiated, all interest culminates in the field of persons, 
and never flags there. Accordingly in this field have the great poets and lite- 
ratuses signally toil'd. They too, in all ages, all lands, have been creators, 
fashioning, making types of men and women, as Adam and Eve are made in 
the divine fable. Behold, shaped, bred by orientalism, feudalism, through 
their long growth and culmination, and breeding back in return — (when 
shall we have an equal series, typical of democracy?) — behold, commencing 
in primal Asia, (apparently formulated, in what beginning we know, in the 
gods of the mythologies, and coming down thence,) a few samples out of the 
countless product, bequeath'd to the moderns, bequeath'd to America as stu- 
dies. For the men, Yudishtura, Rama, Arjuna, Solomon, most of the Old 
and New Testament characters; Achilles, Ulysses, Theseus, Prometheus, Her- 
cules, ^Eneas, Plutarch's heroes; the Merlin of Celtic bards; the Cid, Arthur 
and his knights, Siegfried and Hagen in the Nibelungen ; Roland and Oliver; 
Roustam in the Shah-Nemah; and so on to Milton's Satan, Cervantes' Don 
Quixote, Shakspere's Hamlet, Richard II. , Lear, Marc Antony, &c, and the 
modern Faust. These, I say, are models, combined, adjusted to other stand- 
ards than America's, but of priceless value to her and hers. 

Among women, the goddesses of the Egyptian, Indian and Greek mytholo- 
gies, certain Bible characters, especially the Holy Mother ; Cleopatra, Penel- 



most claim of a strong consolidating of the nationality of these 
States, is, that only by such powerful compaction can the separate 
States secure that full and free swing within their spheres, which 
is becoming to them, each after its kind, so will individuality, 
with unimpeded branchings, flourish best under imperial republi- 
can forms. 

Assuming Democracy to be at present in its embryo condition, 
and that the only large and satisfactory justification of it resides 
in the future, mainly through the copious production of perfect 
characters among the people, and through the advent of a sane 
and pervading religiousness, it is with regard to the atmosphere 
and spaciousness fit for such characters, and of certain nutriment 
and cartoon-draftings proper for them, and indicating them for 
New World purposes, that I continue the present statement — an 
exploration, as of new ground, wherein, like other primitive sur- 
veyors, I must do the best I can, leaving it to those who come 
after me to do much better. (The service, in fact, if any, must 
be to break a sort of first path or track, no matter how rude and 

We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I can- 
not too often repeat that it is a word the real gist of which still 
sleeps, quite unawaken'd, notwithstanding the resonance and the 
many angry tempests out of which its syllables have come, from 
pen or tongue. It is a great word, whose history, I suppose, re- 
mains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted. It 
is, in some sort, younger brother of another great and often-used 
word, Nature, whose history also waits unwritten. As I perceive, 
the tendencies of our day, in the States, (and I entirely respect 
them,) are toward those vast and sweeping movements, influences, 
moral and physical, of humanity, now and always current over 
the planet, on the scale of the impulses of the elements. Then 
it is also good to reduce the whole matter to the consideration of 
a single self, a man, a woman, on permanent grounds. Even for 
the treatment of the universal, in politics, metaphysics, or any- 
thing, sooner, or later we come down to one single, solitary soul. 

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, 
independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining 
eternal. This is the thought of identity — yours for you, who- 
ever you are, as mine for me. Miracle of miracles, beyond 
statement, most spiritual and vaguest of earth's dreams, yet 

ope ; the portraits of firunhelde and Chriemhilde in the Nibelungen ; Oriana, 
Una, &c. ; the modern Consuelo, Walter Scott's Jeanie and Effie Deans, &c., 
&c. (Yet woman portray 'd or outlin'd at her best, or as perfect human mother, 
does not hitherto, it seems to me, fully appear in literature.) 


hardest basic fact, and only entrance to all facts. In such devout 
hours, in the midst of the significant wonders of heaven and 
earth, (significant only because of the Me in the centre,) creeds, 
conventions, fall away and become of no account before this 
simple idea. Under the luminousness of real vision, it alone 
takes possession, takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the 
fable, once liberated and look'd upon, it expands over the whole 
earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven. 

The quality of Being, in the object's self, according to its own 
central idea and purpose, and of growing therefrom and thereto 
— not criticism by other standards, and adjustments thereto — is 
the lesson of Nature. True, the full man wisely gathers, culls, 
absorbs ; but if, engaged disproportionately in that, he slights or 
overlays the precious idiocrasy and special nativity and intention 
that he is, the man's self, the main thing, is a failure, however 
wide his general cultivation. Thus, in our times, refinement and 
delicatesse are not only attended to sufficiently, but threaten to 
eat us up, like a cancer. Already, the democratic genius watches, 
ill- pleased, these tendencies. Provision for a little healthy rude- 
ness, savage virtue, justification of what one has in one's self, 
whatever it is, is demanded. Negative qualities, even deficiencies, 
would be a relief. Singleness and normal simplicity and separa- 
tion, amid this more and more complex, more and more artifi- 
cialized state of society — how pensively we yearn for them ! how 
we would welcome their return ! 

In some such direction, then — at any rate enough to preserve 
the balance — we feel called upon to throw what weight we can, 
not for absolute reasons, but current ones. To prune, gather, 
trim, conform, and ever cram and stuff, and be genteel and 
proper, is the pressure of our days. While aware that much can 
be said even in behalf of all this, we perceive that we have not 
now to consider the question of what is demanded to serve a half- 
starved and barbarous nation, or set of nations, but what is most 
applicable, most pertinent, for numerous congeries of conven- 
tional, over-corpulent societies, already becoming stifled and rot- 
ten with flatulent, infidelistic literature, and polite conformity 
and art. In addition to establish' d sciences, we suggest a science 
as it were of healthy average personalism, on original-universal 
grounds, the object of which should be to raise up and supply 
through the States a copious race of superb American men and 
women, cheerful, religious, ahead of any yet known. 

America has yet morally and artistically originated nothing. 
She seems singularly unaware that the models of persons, books, 
manners, &c., appropriate for former conditions and for European 
lands, are but exiles and exotics here. No current of her life, as 



shown on the surfaces of what is authoritatively called her society, 
accepts or runs into social or esthetic democracy; but all 
the currents set squarely against it. Never, in the Old World, 
was thoroughly upholster'd exterior appearance and show, mental 
and other, built entirely on the idea of caste, and on the suffi- 
ciency of mere outside acquisition — never were glibness, verbal 
intellect, more the test, the emulation — more loftily elevated as 
head and sample — than they are on the surface of our republican 
States this day. The writers of a time hint the mottoes of its 
gods. The word of the modern, say these voices, is the word 

We find ourselves abruptly in close quarters with the enemy. 
This word Culture, or what it has come to represent, involves, 
by contrast, our whole theme, and has been, indeed, the spur, 
urging us to engagement. Certain questions arise. As now taught, 
accepted and carried out, are not the processes of culture rapidly 
creating a class of supercilious infidels, who believe in nothing ? 
Shall a man lose himself in countless masses of adjustments, and 
be so shaped with reference to this, that, and the other, that the 
simply good and healthy and brave parts of him are reduced and 
clipp'd away, like the bordering of box in a garden ? You can 
cultivate corn and roses and orchards — but who shall cultivate 
the mountain peaks, the ocean, and the tumbling gorgeousness of 
the clouds? Lastly — is the readily-given reply that culture only 
seeks to help, systematize, and put in attitude, the elements of 
fertility and power, a conclusive reply ? 

I do not so much object to the name, or word, but I should 
certainly insist, for the purposes of these States, on a radical 
change of category, in the distribution of precedence. I should 
demand a programme of culture, drawn out, not for a single class 
alone, or for the parlors or lecture-rooms, but with an eye to prac- 
tical life, the west, the working-men, the facts of farms and jack- 
planes and engineers, and of the broad range of the women also 
of the middle and working strata, and with reference to the per- 
fect equality of women, and of a grand and powerful motherhood. 
I should demand of this programme or theory a scope generous 
enough to include the widest human area. It must have for its 
spinal meaning the formation of a typical personality of charac- 
ter, eligible to the uses of the high average of men — and not re- 
stricted by conditions ineligible to the masses. The best culture 
will always be that of the manly and courageous instincts, and 
loving perceptions, and of self-respect — aiming to form, over this 
continent, an idiocrasy of universalism, which, true child of 
America, will bring joy to its mother, returning to her in her own 
spirit, recruiting myriads of offspring, able, natural, perceptive, 


tolerant, devout believers in her, America, and with some definite 
instinct why and for what she has arisen, most vast, most formi- 
dable of historic births, and is, now and here, with wonderful 
step, journeying through Time. 

The problem, as it seems to me, presented to the New World* 
is, under permanent law and order, and after preserving cohesion, 
(ensemble-Individuality,) at all hazards, to vitalize man's free play 
of special Personalism, recognizing in it something that calls ever 
more to be consider'd, fed, and adopted as the substratum for the 
best that belongs to us, (government indeed is for it,) including 
the new esthetics of our future. 

To formulate beyond this present vagueness — to help line and 
put before us the species, or a specimen of the species, of the 
democratic ethnology of the future, is a work toward which the 
genius of our land, with peculiar encouragement, invites her well- 
wishers. Already certain limnings, more or less grotesque, more 
or less fading and watery, have appear'd. We too, (repressing 
doubts and qualms,) will try our hand. 

Attempting, then, however crudely, a basic model or portrait 
of personality for general use for the manliness of the States, 
(and doubtless that is most useful which is most simple and com- 
prehensive for all, and toned low enough,) we should prepare the 
canvas well beforehand. Parentage must consider itself in ad- 
vance. (Will the time hasten when fatherhood and motherhood 
shall become a science — and the noblest science?) To our 
model, a clear-blooded, strong-fibred physique, is indispensable ; 
the questions of food, drink, air, exercise, assimilation, digestion, 
can never be intermitted. Out of these we descry a well-begot- 
ten selfhood — in youth, fresh, ardent, emotional, aspiring, full 
of adventure ; at maturity, brave, perceptive, under control, 
neither too talkative nor too reticent, neither flippant nor som- 
bre; of the bodily figure, the movements easy, the complexion 
showing the best blood, somewhat flush'd, breast expanded, an 
erect attitude, a voice whose sound outvies music, eyes of calm 
and steady gaze, yet capable also of flashing — and a general 
presence that holds its own in the company of the highest. (For 
it is native personality, and that alone, that endows a man to 
stand before presidents or generals, or in any distinguish'd col- 
lection, with aplomb — and not culture, or any knowledge or in- 
tellect whatever.) 

With regard to the mental-educational part of our model, en- 
largement of intellect, stores of cephalic knowledge, &c, the 
concentration thitherward of all the customs of our age, espe- 
cially in America, is so overweening, and provides so fully for 
that part, that, important and necessary as it is, it really needs 


nothing from us here — except, indeed, a phrase of warning and 
restraint. Manners, costumes, too, though important, we need 
not dwell upon here. Like beauty, grace of motion, &c, they 
are results. Causes, original things, being attended to, the right 
manners unerringly follow. Much is said, among artists, of " the 
grand style," as if it were a thing by itself. When a man, artist 
or whoever, has health, pride, acuteness, noble aspirations, he 
has the motive-elements of the grandest style. The rest is but 
manipulation, (yet that is no small matter.) 

Leaving still unspecified several sterling parts of any model fit 
for the future personality of America, I must not fail, again and 
ever, to pronounce myself on one, probably the least attended 
to in modern times — a hiatus, indeed, threatening its gloomiest 
consequences after us. I mean the simple, unsophisticated Con- 
science, the primary moral element. If I were asked to specify 
in what quarter lie the grounds of darkest dread, respecting the 
America of our hopes, I should have to point to this particular. 
I should demand the invariable application to individuality, this 
day and any day, of that old, ever-true plumb-rule of persons, 
eras, nations. Our triumphant modern civilizee, with his all- 
schooling and his wondrous appliances, will still show himself 
but an amputation while this deficiency remains. Beyond, (as- 
suming a more hopeful tone,) the vertebration of the manly 
and womanly personalism of our western world, can only be, 
and is, indeed, to be, (I hope,) its all penetrating Religiousness. 

The ripeness of Religion is doubtless to be looked for in this 
field of individuality, and is a result that no organization or 
church can ever achieve. As history is poorly retain'd by what 
the technists call history, and is not given out from their pages, ex- 
cept the learner has in himself the sense of the well-wrapt, never 
yet written, perhaps impossible to be written, history — so Re- 
ligion, although casually arrested, and, after a fashion, preserv'd 
in the churches and creeds, does not depend at all upon them, 
but is a part of the identified soul, which, when greatest, knows 
not bibles in the old way, but in new ways — the identified soul, 
which can really confront Religion when it extricates itself en- 
tirely from the churches, and not before. 

Personalism fuses this, and favors it. I should say, indeed, 
that only in the perfect uncontamination and solitariness of 
individuality may the spirituality of religion positively come 
forth at all. Only here, and on such terms, the meditation, the 
devout ecstasy, the soaring flight. Only here, communion with 
the mysteries, the eternal problems, whence? whither? Alone, 
and identity, and the mood — and the soul emerges, and all state- 




ments, churches, sermons, melt away like vapors. Alone, and silent 
thought and awe, and aspiration — and then the interior conscious- 
ness, like a hitherto unseen inscription, in magic ink, beams out 
its wondrous lines to the sense. Bibles may convey, and priests 
expound, but it is exclusively for the noiseless operation of one's 
isolated Self, to enter the pure ether of veneration, reach the di- 
vine levels, and commune with the unutterable. 

To practically enter into politics is an important part of 
American personalism. To every young man, north and south, 
earnestly studying these things, I should here, as an offset to 
what I have said in former pages, now also say, that may-be to 
views of very largest scope, after all, perhaps the political, (per- 
haps the literary and sociological,) America goes best about its 
development its own way — sometimes, to temporary sight, appal- 
ing enough. It is the fashion among dillettants and fops (per- 
haps I myself am not guiltless,) to decry the whole formulation of 
the active politics of America, as beyond redemption, and to be 
carefully kept away from. See you that you do not fall into this 
error. America, it may be, is doing very well upon the whole, not- 
withstanding these antics of the parties and their leaders, these half- 
brain'd nominees, the many ignorant ballots, and many elected 
failures and blatherers. It is the dillettants, and all who shirk 
their duty, who are not doing well. As for you, I advise you to 
enter more strongly yet into politics. I advise every young man 
to do so. Always inform yourself; always do the best you can ; 
always vote. Disengage yourself from parties. They have been 
useful, and to some extent remain so ; but the floating, uncom- 
mitted electors, farmers, clerks, mechanics, the masters of par- 
ties — watching aloof, inclining victory this side or that side — 
such are the ones most needed, present and future. For America, 
if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, 
not without ; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world 
could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm 
me. Owning no law but their own will, more and more com- 
bative,, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal 
brotherhood, the perfect equality of the States, the ever-over- 
arching American ideas, it behooves you to convey yourself im- 
plicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but 
steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them. 

So much, (hastily toss'd together, and leaving far more unsaid,) 
for an ideal, or intimations of an ideal, toward American man- 
hood. But the other sex, in our land, requires at least a basis of 

I have seen a young American woman, one of a large family 



of daughters, who, some years since, migrated from her meagre 
country home to one of the northern cities, to gain her own sup- 
port. She soon became an expert seamstress, but finding the 
employment too confining for health and comfort, she went 
boldly to work for others, to house-keep, cook, clean, &c. After 
trying several places, she fell upon one where she was suited. She 
has told me that she finds nothing degrading in her position ; it is 
not inconsistent with personal dignity, self-respect, and the re- 
spect of others. She confers benefits and receives them. She 
has good health ; her presence itself is healthy and bracing; her 
character is unstain'd; she has made herself understood, and 
preserves her independence, and has been able to help her pa- 
rents, and educate and get places for her sisters; and her course 
of life is not without opportunities for mental improvement, and 
of much quiet, uncosting happiness and love. 

I have seen another woman who, from taste and necessity con- 
join'd, has gone into practical affairs, carries on a mechanical 
business, partly works at it herself, dashes out more and more into 
real hardy life, is not abash'd by the coarseness of the contact, 
knows how to be firm and silent at the same time, holds her own 
with unvarying coolness and decorum, and will compare, any 
day, with superior carpenters, farmers, and even boatmen and 
drivers. For all that, she has not lost the charm of the womanly 
nature, but preserves and bears it fully, though through such 
rugged presentation. 

Then there is the wife of a mechanic, mother of two children, 
a woman of merely passable English education, but of fine wit, 
with all her sex's grace and intuitions, who exhibits, indeed, such 
a noble female personality, that I am fain to record it here. Never 
abnegating her own proper independence, but always genially 
preserving it, and what belongs to it — cooking, washing, child- 
nursing, house-tending — she beams sunshine out of all these du- 
ties, and makes them illustrious. Physiologically sweet and sound, 
loving work, practical, she yet knows that there are intervals, 
however few, devoted to recreation, music, leisure, hospitality — 
and affords such intervals. Whatever she does, and wherever she 
is, that charm, that indescribable perfume of genuine woman- 
hood attends her, goes with her, exhales from her, which belongs 
of right to all the sex, and is, or ought to be, the invariable at- 
mosphere and common aureola of old as well as young. 

My clear mother once described to me a resplendent person, 
down on Long Island, whom she knew in early days. She was 
known by the name of the Peacemaker. She was well toward 
eighty years old, of happy and sunny temperament, had always 
lived on a farm, and was very neighborly, sensible and discreet, 


an invariable and welcom'd favorite, especially with young mar- 
ried women. She had numerous children and grandchildren. 
She was uneducated, but possess'd a native dignity. She had 
come to be a tacitly agreed upon domestic regulator, judge, set- 
tler of difficulties, shepherdess, and reconciler in the land. She 
was a sight to draw near and look upon, with her large figure, her 
profuse snow-white hair, (uncoifd by any head-dress or cap,) 
dark eyes, clear complexion, sweet breath, and peculiar personal 

The foregoing portraits, I admit, are frightfully out of line 
from these imported models of womanly personality — the stock 
feminine characters of the current novelists, or of the foreign 
court poems, (Ophelias, Enids, prinoesses, or ladies of one thing 
or another,) which fill the envying dreams of so many poor girls, 
and are accepted by our men, too, as supreme ideals of feminine 
excellence to be sought after. But I present mine just for a 

Then there are mutterings, (we will not now stop to heed them 
here, but they must be heeded,) of something more revolutionary. 
The day is coming when the deep questions of woman's entrance 
amid the arenas of practical life, politics, the suffrage, &c, will 
not only be argued all around us, but may be put to decision, and 
real experiment. 

Of course, in these States, for both man and woman, we must 
entirely recast the types of highest personality from what the ori- 
ental, feudal, ecclesiastical worlds bequeath us, and which yet pos- 
sess the imaginative and esthetic fields of the United States, pic- 
torial and melodramatic, not without use as studies, but making 
sad work, and forming a strange anachronism upon the scenes 
and exigencies around us. Of course, the old undying elements 
remain. The task is, to successfully adjust them to new combi- 
nations, our own days. Nor is this so incredible. I can conceive 
a community, to-day and here, in which, on a sufficient scale, the 
perfect personalities, without noise meet; say in some pleasant 
western settlement or town, where a couple of hundred best men 
and women, of ordinary worldly status, have by luck been drawn 
together, with nothing extra of genius or wealth, but virtuous, 
chaste, industrious, cheerful, resolute, friendly and devout. I 
can conceive such a community organized in running order, 
powers judiciously delegated — farming, building, trade, courts, 
mails, schools, elections, all attended to ; and then the rest of 
life, the main thing, freely branching and blossoming in each in- 
dividual, and bearing golden fruit. I can see there, in every 
young and old man, after his kind, and in every woman after 
hers, a true personality, develop' d, exercised proportionately in 


body, mind, and spirit. I can imagine this case as one not nec- 
essarily rare or difficult, but in buoyant accordance with the muni- 
cipal and general requirements of our times. And I can realize 
in it the culmination of something better than any stereotyped 
eclat of history or poems. Perhaps, unsung, undramatized, unput 
in essays or biographies — perhaps even some such community 
already exists, in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, or somewhere, practi- 
cally fulfilling itself, and thus outvying, in cheapest vulgar life, 
all that has been hitherto shown in best ideal pictures. 

In short, and to sum up, America, betaking herself to forma- 
tive action, (as it is about time for more solid achievement, and 
less windy promise,) must, for her purposes, cease to recognize a 
theory of character grown of feudal aristocracies, or form'd by 
merely literary standards, or from any ultramarine, full-dress for- 
mulas of culture, polish, caste, &c, and must sternly promulgate 
her own new standard, yet old enough, and accepting the old, 
the perennial elements, and combining them into groups, unities, 
appropriate to the modern, the democratic, the west, and to the 
practical occasions and needs of our own cities, and of the agri- 
cultural regions. Ever the most precious in the common. Ever 
the fresh breeze of field, or hill, or lake, is more than any palpi- 
tation of fans, though of ivory, and redolent with perfume ; and 
the air is more than the costliest perfumes. 

And now, for fear of mistake, we may not intermit to beg our 
absolution from all that genuinely is, or goes along with, even 
Culture. Pardon us, venerable shade ! if we have seem'd to 
speak lightly of your office. The whole civilization of the earth, 
we know, is yours, with all the glory and the light thereof. It 
is, indeed, in your own spirit, and seeking to tally the loftiest 
teachings of it, that we aim these poor utterances. For you, too, 
mighty minister ! know that there is something greater than you, 
namely, the fresh, eternal qualities of Being. From them, and 
by them, as you, at your best, we too evoke the last, the needed 
help, to vitalize our country and our days. Thus we pronounce 
not so much against the principle of culture ; we only supervise 
it, and promulge along with it, as deep, perhaps a deeper, prin- 
ciple. As we have shown the New World including in itself the 
all-leveling aggregate of democracy, we show it also including the 
all-varied, all-permitting, all-free theorem of individuality, and 
erecting therefor a lofty and hitherto unoccupied framework or 
platform, broad enough for all, eligible to every farmer and me- 
chanic — to the female equally with the male — a towering self- 
hood, not physically perfect only — not satisfied with the mere 
mind's and learning's stores, but religious, possessing the idea of 

2 3 8 


the infinite, (rudder and compass sure amid this troublous voyage, 
o'er darkest, wildest wave, through stormiest wind, of man's or 
nation's progress) — realizing, above the rest, that known hu- 
manity, in deepest sense, is fair adhesion to itself, for purposes 
beyond — and that, finally, the personality of mortal life is most 
important with reference to the immortal, the unknown, the 
spiritual, the only permanently real, which as the ocean waits for 
and receives the rivers, waits for us each and all. 

Much is there, yet, demanding line and outline in our Vistas, 
not only on these topics, but others quite unwritten. Indeed, 
we could talk the matter, and expand it, through lifetime. But 
it is necessary to return to our original premises. In view of 
them, we have again pointedly to confess that all the objective 
grandeurs of the world, for highest purposes, yield themselves up, 
and depend on mentality alone. Here, and here only, all bal- 
ances, all rests. For the mind, which alone builds the permanent 
edifice, haughtily builds it to itself. By it, with what follows it, 
are convey'd to mortal sense the culminations of the material- 
istic, the known, and a prophecy of the unknown. To take ex- 
pression, to incarnate, to endow a literature with grand and 
archetypal models — to fill with pride and love the utmost capacity, 
and to achieve spiritual meanings, and suggest the future — these, 
and these only, satisfy the soul. We must not say one word 
against real materials ; but the wise know that they do not become 
real till touched by emotions, the mind. Did we call the latter 
imponderable? Ah, let us rather proclaim that the slightest 
song-tune, the countless ephemera of passions arous'd by orators 
and tale-tellers, are more dense, more weighty than the engines 
there in the great factories, or the granite blocks in their foun- 

Approaching thus the momentous spaces, and considering with 
reference to a new and greater personalism, the needs and possi- 
bilities of American imaginative literature, through the medium- 
light of what we have already broach'd, it will at once be appre- 
ciated that a vast gulf of difference separates the present accepted 
condition of these spaces, inclusive of what is floating in them, 
from any condition adjusted to, or fit for, the world, the America, 
there sought to be indicated, and the copious races of complete 
men and women, along these Vistas crudely outlined. It is, in 
some sort, no less a difference than lies between that long-con- 
tinued nebular state and vagueness of the astronomical worlds, 
compared with the subsequent state, the definitely-form'd worlds 
themselves, duly compacted, clustering in systems, hung up there, 
chandeliers of the universe, beholding and mutually lit by each 
other's lights, serving for ground of all substantial foothold, all 


2 39 

vulgar uses — yet serving still more as an undying chain and 
echelon of spiritual proofs and shows. A boundless field to fill ! 
A new creation, with needed orbic works launch'd forth, to re- 
volve in free and lawful circuits — to move, self-poised, through 
the ether, and shine like heaven's own suns ! With such, and 
nothing less, we suggest that New World literature, fit to rise 
upon, cohere, and signalize in time, these States. 

What, however, do we more definitely mean by New World 
literature? Are we not doing well enough here already? Are 
not the United States this day busily using, working, more print- 
er's type, more presses, than any other country? uttering and 
absorbing more publications than any other? Do not our pub- 
lishers fatten quicker and deeper? (helping themselves, under 
shelter of a delusive and sneaking law, or rather absence of law, 
to most of their forage, poetical, pictorial, historical, romantic, 
even comic, without money and without price — and fiercely re- 
sisting the timidest proposal to pay for it.) Many will come un- 
der this delusion — but my purpose is to dispel it. I say that a 
nation may hold and circulate rivers and oceans of very readable 
print, journals, magazines, novels, library-books, "poetry," &c. 
— such as the States to-day possess and circulate — of unquestiona- 
ble aid and value — hundreds of new volumes annually composed 
and brought out here, respectable enough, indeed unsurpass'd in 
smartness and erudition — with further hundreds, or rather mil- 
lions, (as by free forage or theft aforemention'd,) also thrown 
into the market — and yet, all the while, the said nation, land, 
strictly speaking, may possess no literature at all. 

Repeating our inquiry, what, then, do we mean by real litera- 
ture ? especially the democratic literature of the future ? Hard 
questions to meet. The clues are inferential, and turn us to the 
past. At best, we can only offer suggestions, comparisons, cir- 

It must still be reiterated, as, for the purpose of these memo- 
randa, the deep lesson of history and time, that all else in the 
contributions of a nation or age, through its politics, materials, 
heroic personalities, military eclat, &c, remains crude, and de- 
fers, in any close and thorough-going estimate, until vitalized 
by national, original archetypes in literature. They only put 
the nation in form, finally tell anything — prove, complete any- 
thing — perpetuate anything. Without doubt, some of the richest 
and most powerful and populous communities of the antique 
world, and some of the grandest personalities and events, have, 
to after and present times, left themselves entirely unbequeath'd. 
Doubtless, greater than any that have come down to us, were 
among those lands, heroisms, persons, that have not come down 



to us at all, even by name, date, or location. Others have ar- 
rived safely, as from voyages over wide, century-stretching seas. 
The little ships, the miracles that have buoy'd them, and by in- 
credible chances safely convey'd them, (or the best of them, 
their meaning and essence,) over long wastes, darkness, lethargy, 
ignorance, &c, have been a few inscriptions — a few immortal 
compositions, small in size, yet compassing what measureless 
values of reminiscence, contemporary portraitures, manners, 
idioms and beliefs, with deepest inference, hint and thought, to 
tie and touch forever the old, new body, and the old, new soul ! 
These ! and still these ! bearing the freight so dear — dearer than 
pride — dearer than love. All the best experience of humanity, 
folded, saved, freighted to us here. Some of these tiny ships we call 
Old and New Testament, Homer, Eschylus, Plato, Juvenal, &c. 
Precious minims ! I think, if were forced to choose, rather than 
have you, and the likes of you, and what belongs to, and has 
grown of you, blotted out and gone, we could better afford, ap- 
paling as that would be, to lose all actual ships, this day fasten'd 
by wharf, or floating on wave, and see them, with all their car- 
goes, scuttled and sent to the bottom. 

Gather'd by geniuses of city, race or age, and put by them in 
highest of art's forms, namely, the literary form, the peculiar 
combinations and the outshows of that city, age, or race, its par- 
ticular modes of the universal attributes and passions, its faiths, 
heroes, lovers and gods, wars, traditions, struggles, crimes, emo- 
tions, joys, (or the subtle spirit of these,) having been pass'd on 
to us to illumine our own selfhood, and its experiences — what 
they supply, indispensable and highest, if taken away, nothing 
else in all the world's boundless storehouses could make up to 
us, or ever again return. 

For us, along the great highways of time, those monuments 
stand — those forms of majesty and beauty. For us those beacons 
burn through all the nights. Unknown Egyptians, graving hier- 
oglyphs; Hindus, with hymn and apothegm and endless epic; 
Hebrew prophet, with spirituality, as in flashes of lightning, con- 
science like red-hot iron, plaintive songs and screams of vengeance 
for tyrannies and enslavement ; Christ, with bent head, brooding 
love and peace, like a dove ; Greek, creating eternal shapes of 
physical and esthetic proportion ; Roman, lord of satire, the 
sword, and the codex; — of the figures, some far off and veil'd, 
others nearer and visible ; Dante, stalking with lean form, nothing 
but fibre, not a grain of superfluous flesh ; Angelo, and the great 
painters, architects, musicians ; rich Shakspere, luxuriant as the 
sun, artist and singer of feudalism in its sunset, with all the gor- 
geous colors, owner thereof, and using them at will ; and so to 



such as German Kant and Hegel, where they, though near us, 
leaping over the ages, sit again, impassive, imperturbable, like the 
Egyptian gods. Of these, and the like of these, is it too much, 
indeed, to return to our favorite figure, and view them as orbs 
and systems of orbs, moving in free paths in the spaces of that 
other heaven, the kosmic intellect, the soul? 

Ye powerful and resplendent ones ! ye were, in your atmos- 
pheres, grown not for America, but rather for her foes, the feudal 
and the old — while our genius is democratic and modern. Yet 
could ye, indeed, but breathe your breath of life into our New 
World's nostrils — not to enslave us, as now, but, for our needs, 
to breed a spirit like your own — perhaps, (dare we to say it ?) 
to dominate, even destroy, what you yourselves have left ! On 
your plane, and no less, but even higher and wider, must we mete 
and measure for to-day and here. I demand races of orbic bards, 
with unconditional uncompromising sway. Come forth, sweet 
democratic despots of the west ! 

By points like these we, in reflection, token what we mean by 
any land's or people's genuine literature. And thus compared 
and tested, judging amid the influence of loftiest products only, 
what do our current copious fields of print, covering in manifold 
forms, the United States, better, for an analogy, present, than, as 
in certain regions of the sea, those spreading, undulating masses 
of squid, through which the whale swimming, with head half out, 

Not but that doubtless our current so-called literature, (like 
an endless supply of small coin,) performs a certain service, and 
may-be, too, the service needed for the time, (the preparation- 
service, as children learn to spell.) Everybody reads, and truly 
nearly everybody writes, either books, or for the magazines or 
journals. The matter has magnitude, too, after a sort. But is 
it really advancing ? or, has it advanced for a long while ? There 
is something impressive about the huge editions of the dailies 
and weeklies, the mountain-stacks of white paper piled in the 
press-vaults, and the proud, crashing, ten-cylinder presses, which 
I can stand and watch any time by the half hour. Then, (though 
the States in the field of imagination present not a single first- 
class work, not a single great literatus,) the main objects, to amuse, 
to titillate, to pass away time, to circulate the news, and rumors 
of news, to rhyme and read rhyme, are yet attain'd, and on a scale 
of infinity. To-day, in books, in the rivalry of writers, especially 
novelists, success, (so-call'd,) is for him. or her who strikes the 
mean flat average, the sensational appetite for stimulus, incident, 
persiflage, &c, and depicts, to the common calibre, sensual, ex- 




terior life. To such, or the luckiest of them, as we see, the audi- 
ences are limitless and profitable ; but they cease presently. While 
this day, or any day, to workmen portraying interior or spiritual 
life, the audiences were limited, and often laggard — but they last 

Compared with the past, our modern science soars, and our 
journals serve — but ideal and even ordinary romantic literature, 
does not, I think, substantially advance. Behold the prolific 
brood of the contemporary novel, magazine-tale, theatre-play, 
&c. The same endless thread of tangled and superlative love- 
story, inherited, apparently from the Amadises and Palmerins of 
the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries over there in Europe. The 
costumes and associations brought down to date, the seasoning 
hotter and more varied, the dragons and ogres left out — but the 
thing, I should say, has not advanced — is just as sensational, just 
asstrain'd — remains about the same, nor more, nor less. 

What is the reason our time, our lands, that we see no fresh 
local courage, sanity, of our own — the Mississippi, stalwart 
Western men, real mental and physical facts, Southerners, &c, 
in the body of our literature ? especially the poetic part of it. 
But always, instead, a parcel of dandies and ennuyees, dapper 
little gentlemen from abroad, who flood us with their thin senti- 
ment of parlors, parasols, piano-songs, tinkling rhymes, the five- 
hundredth importation — or whimpering and crying about some- 
thing, chasing one aborted conceit after another, and forever 
occupied in dyspeptic amours with dyspeptic women. While, 
current and novel, the grandest events and revolutions, and 
stormiest passions of history, are crossing to-day with un paral- 
lel' d rapidity and magnificence over the stages of our own and 
all the continents, offering new materials, opening new vistas, 
with largest needs, inviting the daring launching forth of con- 
ceptions in literature, inspired by them, soaring in highest re- 
gions, serving art in its highest, (which is only the other name 
for serving God, and serving humanity,) where is the man of 
letters, where is the book, with any nobler aim than to follow in 
the old track, repeat what has been said before — and, as its ut- 
most triumph, sell well, and be erudite or elegant? 

Mark the roads, the processes, through which these States have 
arrived, standing easy, henceforth ever-equal, ever-compact, in 
their range to-day. European adventures ? the most antique ? 
Asiatic or African? old history — miracles — romances? Rather, 
our own unquestion'd facts. They hasten, incredible, blazing 
bright as fire. From the deeds and days of Columbus down to 
the present, and including the present — and especially the late 
Secession war — when I con them, I feel, every leaf, like stopping 



to see if I have not made a mistake, and fall'n on the splendid 
figments of some dream. But it is no dream. We stand, live, 
move, in the "huge flow of our age's materialism — in its spiritu- 
ality. We have had founded for us the most positive of lands. 
The founders have pass'd to other spheres — but what are these 
terrible duties they have left us ? 

Their politics the United States have, in my opinion, with all 
their faults, already substantially established, for good, on their 
own native, sound, long-vista'd principles, never to be overturn'd, 
offering a sure basis for all the rest. With that, their future re- 
ligious forms, sociology, literature, teachers, schools, costumes, 
&c, are of course to make a compact whole, uniform, on tally- 
ing principles. For how can we remain, divided, contradicting 
ourselves, this way ?* I say we can only attain harmony and sta- 
bility by consulting ensemble and the ethic purports, and faith- 
fully building upon them. For the New World, indeed, after 
two grand stages of preparation-strata, I perceive that now a 
third stage, being ready for, (and without which the other two 
were useless,) with unmistakable signs appears. The First stage 
was the planning and putting on record the political foundation 
rights of immense masses of people — indeed all people — in the 
organization of republican National, State, and municipal gov- 
ernments, all constructed with reference to each, and each to all. 
This is the American programme, not for classes, but for univer- 
sal man, and is embodied in the compacts of the Declaration of 
Independence, and, as it began and has now grown, w r ith its 
amendments, the Federal Constitution — and in the State govern- 
ments, with all their interiors, and with general suffrage ; those 
having the sense not only of what is in themselves, but that their 
certain several things started, planted, hundreds of others in the 
same direction duly arise and follow. The Second stage relates 
to material prosperity, wealth, produce, labor-saving machines, 
iron, cotton, local, State and continental railways, intercommu- 
nication and trade with all lands, steamships, mining, general 
employment, organization of great cities, cheap appliances for 
comfort, numberless technical schools, books, newspapers, a cur- 
rency for money circulation, &c. The Third stage, rising out of 

* Note, to-day, an instructive, curious spectacle and conflict. Science, 
(twin, in its fields, of Democracy in its) — Science, 'testing absolutely all 
thoughts, all works, has already burst well upon the world — a sun, mounting, 
most illuminating, most glorious — surely never again to set. But against it, 
deeply entrench'd, holding possession, yet remains, (not only through the 
churches and schools, but by imaginative literature, and unregenerate poetry,) 
the fossil theology of the mythic-materialistic, superstitious, untaught and 
credulous, fable-loving, primitive ages of humanity-. 


the previous ones, to make them and all illustrious, I, now, for 
one, promulge, announcing a native expression-spirit, getting into 
form, adult, and through mentality, for these States, self-con- 
tain'd, different from others, more expansive, more rich and free, 
to be evidenced by original authors and poets to come, by 
American personalities, plenty of them, male and female, trav- 
ersing the States, none excepted — and by native superber tab- 
leaux and growths of language, songs, operas, orations, lectures, 
architecture — and by a sublime and serious Religious Democracy 
sternly taking command, dissolving the old, sloughing off sur- 
faces, and from its own interior and vital principles, reconstruct- 
ing, democratizing society. 

For America, type of progress, and of essential faith in man, 
above all his errors and wickedness — few suspect how deep, how 
deep it really strikes. The world evidently supposes, and we 
have evidently supposed so too, that the States are merely to 
achieve the equal franchise, an elective government — to inaugu- 
rate the respectability of labor, and become a nation of practical 
operatives, law-abiding, orderly and well- off. Yes, those are in- 
deed parts of the task of America ; but they not only do not ex- 
haust the progressive conception, but rather arise, teeming with 
it, as the mediums of deeper, higher progress. Daughter of 
a physical revolution — mother of the true revolutions, which are 
of the interior life, and of the arts. For so long as the spirit is 
not changed, any change of appearance is of no avail. 

The old men, I remember as a boy, were always talking of 
American independence. What is independence? Freedom 
from all laws or bonds except those of one's own being, con- 
trol'd by the universal ones. To lands, to man, to woman, what 
is there at last to each, but the inherent soul, nativity, idiocrasy, 
free, highest-poised, soaring its own flight, following out itself? 

At present, these States, in their theology and social standards, 
(of greater importance than their political institutions,) are en- 
tirely held possession of by foreign lands. We see the sons and 
daughters of the New World, ignorant of its genius, not yet in- 
augurating the native, the universal, and the near, still importing 
the distant, the partial, and the dead. We see London, Paris, 
Italy — not original, superb, as where they belong — but second- 
hand here, where they do not belong. We see the shreds of He- 
brews, Romans, Greeks ; but where, on her own soil, do we see, 
in any faithful, highest, proud expression, America herself? I 
sometimes question whether she has a corner in her own house. 

Not but that in one sense, and a very grand one, good theology, 
good art, or good literature, has certain features shared in com- 
mon. The combination fraternizes, ties the races — is, in many 



particulars, under laws applicable indifferently to all, irrespective 
of climate or date, and, from whatever source, appeals to emo- 
tions, pride, love, spirituality, common to humankind. Never- 
theless, they touch a man closest, (perhaps only actually touch 
him,) even in these, in their expression through autochthonic 
lights and shades, flavors, fondnesses, aversions, specific incidents, 
illustrations, out of his own nationality, geography, surroundings, 
antecedents, &c. The spirit and the form are one, and depend 
far more on association, identity and place, than is supposed. 
Subtly interwoven with the materiality and personality of a land, 
a race — Teuton, Turk, Californian, or what not — there is always 
something — I can hardly tell what it is — history but describes the 
results of it — it is the same as the untellable look of some human 
faces. Nature, too, in her stolid forms, is full of it — but to most 
it is there a secret. This something is rooted in the invisible 
roots, the profoundest meanings of that place, race, or nation- 
ality ; and to absorb and again effuse it, uttering words and pro- 
ducts as from its midst, and carrying it into highest regions, is 
the work, or a main part of the work, of any country's true 
author, poet, historian, lecturer, and perhaps even priest and 
philosoph. Here, and here only, are the foundations for our 
really valuable and permanent verse, drama, &c. 

But at present, (judged by any higher scale than that which 
finds the chief ends of existence to be to feverishly make money 
during one-half of it, and by some "amusement," or perhaps 
foreign travel, flippantly kill time, the other half,) and con- 
sider'd with reference to purposes of patriotism, health, a noble 
personality, religion, and the democratic adjustments, all these 
swarms of poems, literary magazines, dramatic plays, resultant so 
far from American intellect, and the formation of our best ideas, 
are useless and a mockery. They strengthen and nourish no one, 
express nothing characteristic, give decision and purpose to no 
one, and suffice only the lowest level of vacant minds. 

Of what is called the drama, or dramatic presentation in the 
United States, as now put forth at the theatres, I should say it 
deserves to be treated with the same gravity, and on a par with 
the questions of ornamental confectionery at public dinners, or 
the arrangement of curtains and hangings in a ball room — nor 
more, nor less. Of the other, I will not insult the reader's intel- 
ligence, (once really entering into the atmosphere of these Vistas,) 
by supposing it necessary to show, in detail, why the copious 
dribble, either of our little or well-known rhymesters, does not 
fulfil, in any respect, the needs and august occasions of this land. 
America demands a poetry that is bold, modern, and all-surround- 
ing and kosmical, as she is herself. It must in no respect ignore 


science or the modern, but inspire itself with science and the 
modern. It must bend its vision toward the future, more than 
the past. Like America, it must extricate itself from even the 
greatest models of the past, and, while courteous to them, must 
have entire faith in itself, and the products of its own democratic 
spirit only. Like her, it must place in the van, and hold up at 
all hazards, the banner of the divine pride of man in himself, (the 
radical foundation of the new religion.) Long enough have the 
People been listening to poems in which common humanity, de- 
ferential, bends low, humiliated, acknowledging superiors. But 
America listens to no such poems. Erect, inflated, and fully self- 
esteeming be the chant ; and then America will listen with pleased 

Nor may the genuine gold, the gems, when brought to light at 
last, be probably usher' d forth from any of the quarters currently 
counted on. To-day, doubtless, the infant genius of American 
poetic expression, (eluding those highly-refined imported and 
gilt-edged themes, and sentimental and butterfly flights, pleasant 
to orthodox publishers — causing tender spasms in the coteries, 
and warranted not to chafe the sensitive cuticle of the most ex- 
quisitely artificial gossamer delicacy,) lies sleeping far away, hap- 
pily unrecognized and uninjur'd by the coteries, the art-writers, 
the talkers and critics of the saloons, or the lecturers in the col- 
leges — lies sleeping, aside, unrecking itself, in some western idiom, 
or native Michigan or Tennessee repartee, or stump-speech — or 
in Kentucky or Georgia, or the Carolinas — or in some slang or 
local song or allusion of the Manhattan, Boston, Philadelphia or 
Baltimore mechanic — or up in the Maine woods — or off in the 
hut of the California miner, or crossing the Rocky mountains, or 
along the Pacific railroad — or on the breasts of the young farmers 
of the northwest, or Canada, or boatmen of the lakes. Rude and 
coarse nursing-beds, these ; but only from such beginnings and 
stocks, indigenous here, may haply arrive, be grafted, and sprout, 
in time, flowers of genuine American aroma, and fruits truly and 
fully our own. 

I say it were a standing disgrace to these States — I say it were 
a disgrace to any nation, distinguished above others by the variety 
and vastness of its territories, its materials, its inventive activity, 
and the splendid practicality of its people, not to rise and soar 
above others also in its original styles in literature and art, and 
its own supply of intellectual and esthetic masterpieces, arche- 
typal, and consistent with itself. I know not a land except ours 
that has not, to some extent, however small, made its title clear. 
The Scotch have their born ballads, subtly expressing their past 
and present, and expressing character. The Irish have theirs. 


England, Italy, France, Spain, theirs. What has America? With 
exhaustless mines of the richest ore of epic, lyric, tale, tune, pic- 
ture, &c, in the Four Years' War; with, indeed, I sometimes 
think, the richest masses of material ever afforded a nation, more 
variegated, and on a larger scale — the first sign of proportionate, 
native, imaginative Soul, and first-class works to match, is, (I 
cannot too often repeat,) so far wanting. 

Long ere the second centennial arrives, there will be some forty 
to fifty great States, among them Canada and Cuba. When the 
present century closes, our population will be sixty or seventy 
millions. The Pacific will be ours, and the Atlantic mainly ours. 
There will be daily electric communication with every part of the 
globe. What an age ! What a land ! Where, elsewhere, one 
so great? The individuality of one nation must then, as always, 
lead the world. Can there be any doubt who the leader ought to 
be? Bear in mind, though, that nothing less than the mightiest 
original non-subordinated Soul has ever really, gloriously led, 
or ever can lead. (This Soul — its other name, in these Vistas, 
is Literature.) 

In fond fancy leaping those hundred years ahead, let us survey 
America's works, poems, philosophies, fulfilling prophecies, and 
giving form and decision to best ideals. Much that is now un- 
dream'd of, we might then perhaps see establish'd, luxuriantly 
cropping forth, richness, vigor of letters and of artistic expression, 
in whose products character will be a main requirement, and not 
merely erudition or elegance. 

Intense and loving comradeship, the personal and passionate 
attachment of man to man — which, hard to define, underlies the 
lessons and ideals of the profound saviours of every land and age, 
and which seems to promise, when thoroughly develop'd, culti- 
vated and recognized in manners and literature, the most sub- 
stantial hope and safety of the future of these States, will then be 
fully express'd.* 

* It is to the development, identification, and general prevalence of that 
fervid comradeship, (the adhesive love, at least rivaling the amative love 
hitherto possessing imaginative literature, if not going beyond it,) that I look 
for the counterbalance and offset of our materialistic and vulgar American 
democracy, and for the spiritualization thereof. Many will say it is a dream, 
and will not follow my inferences : but I confidently expect a time when 
there will be seen, running like a half-hid warp through all the myriad audi- 
ble and visible worldly interests of America, threads of manly friendship, fond 
and loving, pure and sweet, strong and life-long, carried to degrees hitherto 
unknown — not only giving tone to individual character, and making it un- 
precedently emotional, muscular, heroic, and refined, but having the deepest 
relations to general politics. I say democracy infers such loving comradeship, 


A strong- fibred joyousness and faith, and the sense of health al 
fresco, may well enter into the preparation of future noble Amer- 
ican authorship. Part of the test of a great literatus shall be the 
absence in him of the idea of the covert, the lurid, the malefi- 
cent, the devil, the grim estimates inherited from the Puritans, 
hell, natural depravity, and the like. The great literatus will be 
known, among the rest, by his cheerful simplicity, his adherence 
to natural standards, his limitless faith in God, his reverence, and 
by the absence in him of doubt, ennui, burlesque, persiflage, or 
any strain'd and temporary fashion. 

Nor must I fail, again and yet again, to clinch, reiterate more 
plainly still, (O that indeed such survey as we fancy, may show 
in time this part completed also !) the lofty aim, surely the 
proudest and the purest, in whose service the future literatus, of 
whatever field, may gladly labor. As we have intimated, offsetting 
the material civilization of our race, our nationality, its wealth, 
territories, factories, population, products, trade, and military and 
naval strength, and breathing breath of life into all these, and more, 
must be its moral civilization — the formulation, expression, and 
aidancy whereof, is the very highest height of literature. The 
climax of this loftiest range of civilization, rising above all the 
gorgeous shows and results of wealth, intellect, power, and art, 
as such — above even theology and religious fervor — is to be its 
development, from the eternal bases, and the fit expression, of 
absolute Conscience, moral soundness, Justice. Even in religious 
fervor there is a touch of animal heat. But moral conscientious- 
ness, crystalline, without flaw, not Godlike only, entirely human, 
awes and enchants forever. Great is emotional love, even in the 
order of the rational universe. But, if we must make gradations, 
I am clear there is something greater. Power, love, veneration, 
products, genius, esthetics, tried by subtlest comparisons, analyses, 
and in serenest moods, somewhere fail, somehow become vain. 
Then noiseless, with flowing steps, the lord, the sun, the last ideal 
comes. By the names right, justice, truth, we suggest, but do not 
describe it. To the world of men it remains a dream, an idea as 
they call it. But no dream is it to the wise — but the proudest, 
almost only solid lasting thing of all. Its analogy in the material 
universe is what holds together this world, and every object upon 
it, and carries its dynamics on forever sure and safe. Its lack, 
and the persistent shirking of it, as in life, sociology, literature, 
politics, business, and even sermonizing, these times, or any times, 
still leaves the abysm, the mortal flaw and smutch, mocking civi- 

as its most inevitable twin or counterpart, without which it will be incomplete, 
in vain, and incapable of perpetuating itself. 


lization to-day, with all its unquestion'd triumphs, and all the 
civilization so far known.* 

Present literature, while magnificently fulfilling certain popular 
demands, with plenteous knowledge and verbal smartness, is pro- 
foundly sophisticated, insane, and its very joy is morbid. It needs 
tally and express Nature, and the spirit of Nature, and to know 
and obey the standards. I say the question of Nature, largely 
consider'd, involves the questions of the esthetic, the emotional, 
and the religious — and involves happiness. A fitly born and bred 
race, growing up in right conditions of out-door as much as in- 
door harmony, activity and development, would probably, from 
and in those conditions, find it enough merely /# live — and would, 
in their relations to the sky, air, water, trees, &c, and to the 
countless common shows, and in the fact of life itself, discover 
and achieve happiness — with Being suffused night and day by 
wholesome extasy, surpassing all the pleasures that wealth, amuse- 
ment, and even gratified intellect, erudition, or the sense of art, 
can give. 

In the prophetic literature of these States (the reader of my 
speculations will miss their principal stress unless he allows well 
for the point that a new Literature, perhaps a new Metaphysics, 
certainly a new Poetry, are to be, in my opinion, the only sure 
and worthy supports and expressions of the American Democ- 
racy,) Nature, true Nature, and the true idea of Nature, long 
absent, must, above all, become fully restored, enlarged, and 
must furnish the pervading atmosphere to poems, and the test of 
all high literary and esthetic compositions. I do not mean the 
smooth walks, trimm'd hedges, poseys and nightingales of the 
English poets, but the whole orb, with its geologic history, the 
kosmos, carrying fire and snow, that rolls through the illimitable 

* I am reminded as I write that out of this very conscience, or idea of con- 
science, of intense moral right, and in its name and strain'd construction, the 
worst fanaticisms, wars, persecutions, murders, &c, have yet, in all lands, in 
the past, been broach'd, and have come to their devilish fruition. Much is to 
be said — but I may say here, and in response, that side by side with the unflag- 
ging stimulation of the elements of religion and conscience must henceforth 
move with equal sway, science, absolute reason, and the general proportionate 
development of the whole man. These scientific facts, deductions, are divine 
too — precious counted parts of moral civilization, and, with physical health, 
indispensable to it, to prevent fanaticism. For abstract religion, I perceive, 
is easily led astray, ever credulous, and is capable of devouring, remorseless, 
like fire and flame. Conscience, too, isolated from all else, and from the emo- 
tional nature, may but attain the beauty and purity of glacial, snowy ice. We 
want, for these States, for the general character, a cheerful, religious fervor, 
endued with the ever-present modifications of the human emotions, friendship, 
benevolence, with a fair field for scientific inquiry, the right of individual 
judgment, and always the cooling influences of material Nature. 



areas, light as a feather, though weighing billions of tons. Fur- 
thermore, as by what we now partially call Nature is intended, at 
most, only what is entertainable by the physical conscience, the 
sense of matter, and of good animal health — on these it must be 
distinctly accumulated, incorporated, that man, comprehending 
these, has, in towering superaddition, the moral and spiritual 
consciences, indicating his destination beyond the ostensible, the 

To the heights of such estimate of Nature indeed ascending, 
we proceed to make observations for our Vistas, breathing rarest 
air. What is I believe called Idealism seems to me to suggest, 
(guarding against extravagance, and ever modified even by its 
opposite,) the course of inquiry and desert of favor for our New 
World metaphysics, their foundation of and in literature, giving 
hue to all.* 

* The culmination and fruit of literary artistic expression, and its final 
fields of pleasure for the human soul , are in metaphysics, including the mysteries 
of the spiritual world, the soul itself, and the question of the immortal con- 
tinuation of our identity. In all ages, the mind of man has brought up here — 
and always will. Here, at least, of whatever race or era, we stand on com- 
mon ground. Applause, too, is unanimous, antique or modern. Those authors 
who work well in this field — though their reward, instead of a handsome per- 
centage, or royalty, may be but simply the laurel-crown of the victors in the 
great Olympic games — will be dearest to humanity, and their works, however 
esthetically defective, will be treasur'd forever. The altitude of literature and 
poetry has always been religion — and always will be. The Indian Vedas, the 
Na^kas of Zoroaster, the Talmud of the Jews, the Old Testament, the Gospel 
of Christ and his disciples, Plato's works, the Koran of Mohammed, the Edda 
of Snorro, and so on toward our own day, to Swedenborg, and to the invalu- 
able contributions of Leibnitz, Kant and Hegel — these, with such poems only 
in which, (while singing well of persons and events, of the passions of man, 
and the shows of the material universe,) the religious tone, the consciousness 
of mystery, the recognition of the future, of the unknown, of Deity over and 
under all, and of the divine purpose, are never absent, but indirectly give tone 
to all — exhibit literature's real heights and elevations, towering up like the 
great mountains of the earth. 

Standing on this ground — the last, the highest, only permanent ground — 
and sternly criticising, from it, all works, either of the literary, or any art, we 
have peremptorily to dismiss every pretensive production, however fine its 
esthetic or intellectual points, which violates or ignores, or even does not cele- 
brate, the central divine idea of All, suffusing universe, of eternal trains of 
purpose, in the development, by however slow degrees, of the physical, moral, 
and spiritual kosmos. I say he has studied, meditated to no profit, whatever 
maybe his mere erudition, who has not absorb'dthis simple consciousness and 
faith. It is not entirely new — but it is for Democracy to elaborate it, and look 
to build upon and expand from it, with uncompromising reliance. Above the 
doors of teaching the inscription is to appear, Though little or nothing can be 
absolutely known, perceiv'd, except from a point of view which "is evanes- 
cent, yet we know at least one permanency, that Time and Space, in the will 
of God, furnish successive chains, completions of material births and begin- 


The elevating and etherealizing ideas of the unknown and of 
unreality must be brought forward with authority, as they are the 
legitimate heirs of the known, and of reality, and at least as 
great as their parents. Fearless of scoffing, and of the ostent, 
let us take our stand, our ground, and never desert it, to confront 
the growing excess and arrogance of realism. To the cry, now 
victorious — the cry of sense, science, flesh, incomes, farms, mer- 
chandise, logic, intellect, demonstrations, solid perpetuities, build- 
ings of brick and iron, or even the facts of the -shows of trees, 
earth, rocks, &c, fear not, my brethren, my sisters, to sound out 
with equally determin'd voice, that conviction brooding within 
the recesses of every envision'd soul — illusions ! apparitions ! fig- 
ments all ! True, we must not condemn the show, nether abso- 
lutely deny it, for the indispensability of its meanings; but how 
clearly we see that, migrate in soul to what we can already con- 
ceive of superior and spiritual points of view, and, palpable as it' 
seems under present relations, it all and several might, nay cer- 
tainly would, fall apart and vanish. 

I hail with joy the oceanic, variegated, intense practical energy, 
the demand for facts, even the business materialism of the cur- 
rent age, our States. But wo to the age or land in which these 
things, movements, stopping at themselves, do not tend to ideas. 
As fuel to flame, and flame to the heavens, so must wealth, science, 
materialism — even this democracy of which we make so much — 
unerringly feed the highest mind, the soul. Infinitude the flight : 
fathomless the mystery. Man, so diminutive, dilates beyond the 
sensible universe, competes with, outcopes space and time, medi- 
tating even one great idea. Thus, and thus only, does a human 
being, his spirit, ascend above, and justify, objective Nature, 
which, probably nothing in itself, is incredibly and divinely ser- 
viceable, indispensable, real, here. And as the purport of objec- 
tive Nature is doubtless folded, hidden, somewhere here — as some- 
where here is what this globe and its manifold forms, and the 
light of day, and night's darkness, and life itself, with all its ex- 
periences, are for — it is here the great literature, especially verse, 
must get its inspiration and throbbing blood. Then may we at- 

nings, solve all discrepancies, fears and doubts, and eventually fulfil happi- 
ness — and that the prophecy of those births, namely spiritual results, throws 
the true arch over all teaching, all science. The local considerations of sin, 
disease, deformity, ignorance, death, &c, and their measurement by the super- 
ficial mind, and ordinary legislation and theology, are to be met by science, 
boldly accepting, promulging this faith, and planting the seeds of superber 
laws — of the explication of the physical universe through the spiritual — and 
clearing the way for a religion, sweet and unimpugnable alike to little child 
or great savan. 



tain to a poetry worthy the immortal soul of man, and which, 
while absorbing materials, and, in their own sense, the shows of 
Nature, will, above all, have, both directly and indirectly, a free- 
ing, fluidizing, expanding, religious character, exulting with 
science, fructifying the moral elements, and stimulating aspira- 
tions, and meditations on the unknown. 

The process, so far, is indirect and peculiar, and though it may 
be suggested, cannot be defined. Observing, rapport, and with 
intuition, the shows and forms presented by Nature, the sensuous 
luxuriance, the beautiful in living men and women, the actual 
play of passions, in history and life — and, above all, from those 
developments either in Nature or human personality in which 
power, (dearest of all to the sense of the artist,) transacts itself — 
out of these, and seizing what is in them, the poet, the esthetic 
worker in any field, by the divine magic of his genius, projects 
them, their analogies, by curious removes, indirections, in litera- 
ture and art. (No useless attempt to repeat the material creation, 
by daguerreotyping the exact likeness by mortal mental means.) 
This is the image-making faculty, coping with material creation, 
and rivaling, almost triumphing over it. This alone, when all 
the other parts of a specimen of literature or art are ready and 
waiting, can breathe into it the breath of life, and endow it with 

"The true question to ask," says the librarian of Congress in a 
paper read before the Social Science Convention at New York, 
October, 1869, "The true question to ask respecting a book, is, 
has it help" d any human soul ?" This is the hint, statement, not 
only of the great literatus, his book, but of every great artist. It 
may be that all works of art are to be first tried by their art 
qualities, their image-forming talent, and their dramatic, pictorial, 
plot-constructing, euphonious and other talents. Then, when- 
ever claiming to be first-class works, they are to be strictly and 
sternly tried by their foundation in, and radiation, in the highest 
sense, and always indirectly, of the ethic principles, and eligibility 
to free, arouse, dilate. 

As, within the purposes of the Kosmos, and vivifying all me- 
teorology, and all the congeries of the mineral, vegetable and 
animal worlds — all the physical growth and development of man, 
and all the history of the race in politics, religions, wars, &c, 
there is a moral purpose, a visible or invisible intention, certainly 
underlying all — its results and proof needing to be patiently 
waited for — needing intuition, faith, idiosyncrasy, to its realiza- 
tion, which many, and especially the intellectual, do not have — 
so in the product, or congeries of the product, of the greatest 
literatus. This is the last, profoundest measure and test of a 


2 53 

first-class literary or esthetic achievement, and when understood 
and put in force must fain, I say, lead to works, books, nobler 
than any hitherto known. Lo ! Nature, (the only complete, ac- 
tual poem,) existing calmly in the divine scheme, containing all, 
content, careless of the criticisms of a day, or these endless and 
wordy chatterers. And lo ! to the consciousuess of the soul, the 
permanent identity, the thought, the something, before which 
the magnitude even of democracy, art, literature, &c, dwindles, 
becomes partial, measurable — something that fully satisfies, (which 
those do not.) That something is the All, and the idea of All, 
with the accompanying idea of eternity, and of itself, the soul, 
buoyant, indestructible, sailing space forever, visiting every re- 
gion, as a ship the sea. And again lo! the pulsations in all 
matter, all spirit, throbbing forever — the eternal beats, eternal 
systole and diastole of life in things — wherefrom I feel and know 
that death is not the ending, as was thought, but rather the real 
beginning — and that nothing ever is or can be lost, nor ever die, 
nor soul, nor matter. 

In the future of these States must arise poets immenser far, 
and make great poems of death. The poems of life are great, 
but there must be the poems of the purports of life, not only in 
itself, but beyond itself. I have eulogized Homer, the sacred 
bards of Jewry, Eschylus, Juvenal, Shakspere, &c, and acknowl- 
edged their inestimable value. But, (with perhaps the exception, 
in some, not all respects, of the second-mention'd,) I say there 
must, for future and democratic purposes, appear poets, (dare I 
to say so ?) of higher class even than any of those — poets not only 
possess'd of the religious fire and abandon of Isaiah, luxuriant 
in the epic talent of Homer, or fur proud characters as in Shak- 
spere, but consistent with the Hegelian formulas, and consistent 
with modern science. America needs, and the world needs, a 
class of bards who will, now and ever, so link and tally the ra- 
tional physical being of man, with the ensembles of time and 
space, and with this vast and multiform show, Nature, surround- 
ing him, ever tantalizing him, equally a part, and yet not a part 
of him, as to essentially harmonize, satisfy, and put at rest. 
Faith, very old, now scared away by science, must be restored, 
brought back by the same power that caused her departure — 
restored with new sway, deeper, wider, higher than ever. Surely, 
this universal ennui, this coward fear, this shuddering at death, 
these low, degrading views, are not always to rule the spirit per- 
vading future society, as it has the past, and does the present. 
What the Roman Lucretius sought most nobly, yet all too blindly, 
negatively to do for his age and its successors, must be done 
positively by some great coming literatus, especially poet, who, 


while remaining fully poet, will absorb whatever science indicates, 
with spiritualism, and out of them, and out of his own genius, 
will compose the great poem of death. Then will man indeed 
confront Nature, and confront time and space, both with science, 
and con amove, and take his right place, prepared for life, master 
of fortune and misfortune. And then that which was long wanted 
will be supplied, and the ship that had it not before in all her 
voyages, will have an anchor. 

There are still other standards, suggestions, for products of 
high literatuses. That which really balances and conserves the 
social and political world is not so much legislation, police, 
treaties, and dread of punishment, as the latent eternal intuitional 
sense, in humanity, of fairness, manliness, decorum, &c. Indeed, 
this perennial regulation, control, and oversight, by self-sup- 
pliance, is sine qua non to democracy ; and a highest widest aim 
of democratic literature may well be to bring forth, cultivate, 
brace, and strengthen this sense, in individuals and society. A 
strong mastership of the general inferior self by the superior self, 
is to be aided, secured, indirectly, but surely, by the literatus, in 
his works, shaping, for individual or aggregate democracy, a 
great passionate body, in and along with which goes a great mas- 
terful spirit. 

And still, providing for contingencies, I fain confront the fact, 
the need of powerful native philosophs and orators and bards, 
these States, as rallying points to come, in times of danger, and 
to fend off ruin and defection. For history is long, long, long. 
Shift and turn the combinations of the statement as we may, the 
problem of the future of America is in certain respects as dark 
as it is vast. Pride, competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, 
and license beyond example, brood already upon us. Unwieldy 
and immense, who shall hold in behemoth ? who bridle levi- 
athan? Flaunt it as we choose, athwart and over the roads of 
our progress loom huge uncertainty, and dreadful, threatening 
gloom. It is useless to deny it : Democracy grows rankly up the 
thickest, noxious, deadliest plants and fruits of all — brings worse 
and worse invaders — needs newer, larger, stronger, keener com- 
pensations and compellers. 

Our lands, embracing so much, (embracing indeed the whole, 
rejecting none,) hold in their breast that flame also, capable of 
consuming themselves, consuming us all. Short as the span of 
our national life has been, already have death and downfall 
crowded close upon us — and will again crowd close, no doubt, 
even if warded off. Ages to come may never know, but I know, 
how narrowly during the late secession war — and more than once, 



and more than twice or thrice — our Nationality, (wherein bound 
up, as in a ship in a storm, depended, and yet depend, all our 
best life, all hope, all value,) just grazed, just by a hair escaped 
destruction. Alas ! to think of them ! the agony and bloody 
sweat of certain of those hours ! those cruel, sharp, suspended 
crises ! 

Even to-day, amid these whirls, incredible flippancy, and blind 
fury of parties, infidelity, entire lack of first-class captains and 
leaders, added to the plentiful meanness and vulgarity of the os- 
tensible masses — that problem, the labor question, beginning to 
open like a yawning gulf, rapidly widening every year — what 
prospect have we? We sail a dangerous sea of seething currents, 
cross and under-currents, vortices — all so dark, untried — and 
whither shall we turn? It seems as if the Almighty had spread 
before this nation charts of imperial destinies, dazzling as the 
sun, yet with many a deep intestine difficulty, and human aggre- 
gate of cankerous imperfection, — saying, lo ! the roads, the only 
plans of development, long and varied with all terrible balks and 
ebullitions. You said in your soul, I will be empire of empires, 
overshadowing all else, past and present, putting the history of 
old-world dynasties, conquests behind me, as of no account — 
making a new history, a history of democracy, making old his- 
tory a dwarf — I alone inaugurating largeness, culminating time. 
If these, O lands of America, are indeed the prizes, the determi- 
nations of your soul, be it so. But behold the cost, and already 
specimens of the cost. Thought you greatness was to ripen for 
you like a pear ? If you would have greatness, know that you 
must conquer it through ages, centuries — must pay for it with a 
proportionate price. For you too, as for all lands, the struggle, 
the traitor, the wily person in office, scrofulous wealth, the surfeit 
of prosperity, the demonism of greed, the hell of passion, the de- 
cay of faith, the long postponement, the fossil-like lethargy, the 
ceaseless need of revolutions, prophets, thunderstorms, deaths, 
births, new projections and invigorations of ideas and men. 

Yet I have dream'd, merged in that hidden-tangled problem 
of our fate, whose long unraveling stretches mysteriously through 
time — dream'd out, portray'd, hinted already — a little or a larger 
band — a band of brave and true, unprecedented yet — arm'd and 
equipt at every point — the members separated, it may be, by dif- 
ferent dates and States, or south, or north, or east, or west — Pa- 
cific, Atlantic, Southern, Canadian — a year, a century here, and 
other centuries there — but always one, compact in soul, con- 
science-conserving, God-inculcating, inspired achievers, not only 
in literature, the greatest art, but achievers in all art — a new, un- 
dying order, dynasty, from age to age transmitted — a band, a class, 


at least as fit to cope with current years, our dangers, needs, as 
those who, for their times, so long, so well, in armor or in cowl, 
upheld and made illustrious, that far-back feudal, priestly world. 
To offset chivalry, indeed, those vanish'd countless knights, old 
altars, abbeys, priests, ages and strings of ages, a knightlier and 
more sacred cause to-day demands, and shall supply, in a New 
World, to larger, grander work, more than the counterpart and 
tally of them. 

Arrived now, definitely, at an apex for these Vistas, I confess 
that the promulgation and belief in such a class or institution — 
a new and greater literatus order — its possibility, (nay certainty,) 
underlies these entire speculations — and that the rest, the other 
parts, as superstructures, are ail founded upon it. It really seems 
to me the condition, not only of our future national and demo- 
cratic development, but of our perpetuation. In the highly 
artificial and materialistic bases of modern civilization, with the 
corresponding arrangements and methods of living, the force- 
infusion of intellect alone, the depraving influences of riches 
just as much as poverty, the absence of all high ideals in char- 
acter — with the long series of tendencies, shapings, which few 
are strong enough to resist, and which now seem, with steam- 
engine speed, to be everywhere turning out the generations of 
humanity like uniform iron castings — all of which, as compared 
with the feudal ages, we can yet do nothing better than accept, 
make the best of, and even welcome, upon the whole, for their 
oceanic practical grandeur, and their restless wholesale kneading 
of the masses — I say of all this tremendous and dominant play of 
solely materialistic bearings upon current life in the United 
States, with the results as already seen, accumulating, and reach- 
ing far into the future, that they must either be confronted and 
met by at least an equally subtle and tremendous force-infusion 
for purposes of spiritualization, for the pure conscience, for gen- 
uine esthetics, and for absolute and primal manliness and woman- 
liness — or else our modern civilization, with all its improvements, 
is in vain, and we are on the road to a destiny, a status, equiva- 
lent, in its real world, to that of the fabled damned. 

Prospecting thus the coming unsped days, and that new order 
in them — marking the endless train of exercise, development, 
unwind, in nation as in man, which life is for — we see, fore-indi- 
cated, amid these prospects and hopes, new law-forces of spoken 
and written language — not merely the pedagogue-forms, correct, 
regular, familiar with precedents, made for matters of outside 
propriety, fine words, thoughts definitely told out — but a lan- 
guage fann'd by the breath of Nature, which leaps overhead, 
cares mostly for impetus and effects, and for what it plants and 



invigorates to grow — tallies life and character, and seldomer tells 
a thing than suggests or necessitates it. In fact, a new theory of 
literary composition for imaginative works of the very first class, 
and especially for highest poems, is the sole course open to these 
States. Books are to be call'd for, and supplied, on the assump- 
tion that the process of reading is not a hall sleep, but, in highest 
sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do 
something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself 
construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay 
— the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. 
Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the 
reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple 
and athletic minds, well-train'd, intuitive, used to depend on 
themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers. 

Investigating here, we see, not that it is a little thing we have, 
in having the bequeathed libraries, countless shelves of volumes, 
records, &c. ; yet how serious the danger, depending entirely on 
them, of the bloodless vein, the nerveless arm, the false applica- 
tion, at second or third hand. We see that the real interest of 
this people of ours in the theology, history, poetry, politics, and 
personal models of the past, (the British islands, for instance, and 
indeed all the past,) is not necessarily to mould ourselves or our 
literature upon them, but to attain fuller, more definite compari- 
sons, warnings, and the insight to ourselves, our own present, and 
our own far grander, different, future history, religion, social 
customs, &c. We see that almost everything that has been writ- 
ten, sung, or stated, of old, with reference to humanity under the 
feudal and oriental institutes, religions, and for other lands, needs 
to be re-written, re-sung, re-stated, in terms consistent with the 
institution of these States, and to come in range and obedient 
uniformity with them. 

We see, as in the universes of the material kosmos, after me- 
teorological, vegetable, and animal cycles, man at last arises, 
born through them, to prove them, concentrate them, to turn 
upon them with wonder and love — to command them, adorn 
them, and carry them upward into superior realms — so, out of the 
series of the preceding social and political universes, now arise 
these States. We see that while many were supposing things es- 
tablished and completed, really the grandest things always re- 
main ; and discover that the work of the New World is not 
ended, but only fairly begun. 

We see our land, America, -her literature, esthetics, &c, as, 
substantially, the getting in form, or erTusement and statement, of 
deepest basic elements and loftiest final meanings, of history and 
man — and the portrayal, (under the eternal laws and conditions 



of beauty,) of our own physiognomy, the subjective tie and ex- 
pression of the objective, as from* our own combination, continu- 
ation, and points of view — and the deposit and record of the 
national mentality, character, appeals, heroism, wars, and even 
liberties — where these, and all, culminate in native literary and 
artistic formulation, to be perpetuated ; and not having which 
native, first-class formulation, she will flounder about, and her 
other, however imposing, eminent greatness, prove merely a pass- 
ing gleam ; but truly having which, she will understand herself, 
live nobly, nobly contribute, emanate, and, swinging, poised 
safely on herself, illumin'd and illuming, become a full-form'd 
world, and divine Mother not only of material but spiritual 
worlds, in ceaseless succession through time — the main thing 
being the average, the be ily, the concrete, the democratic, the 
popular, on which all the superstructures of the future are to per- 
manently rest. 


Not the whole matter, but same side facts worth conning to-day and 

any day. 

I consider the war of attempted secession, 1860-65, not as a 
struggle of two distinct and separate peoples, but a conflict (often 
happening, and very fierce) between the passions and paradoxes 
of one and the same identity — perhaps the only terms on which 
that identity could really become fused, homogeneous and lasting. 
The origin and conditions out of which it arose, are full of les- 
sons, full of warnings yet to the Republic — and always will be. 
The underlying and principal of those origins are yet singularly- 
ignored. The Northern States were really just as responsible 
for that war, (in its precedents, foundations, instigations,) as 
the South. Let me try to give my view. From the age of 21 to 
40, (1840-' 60,) I was interested in the political movements of the 
land, not so much as a participant, but as an observer, and a reg- 
ular voter at the elections. I think I was conversant with the 
springs of action, and their workings, not only in New York 
city and Brooklyn, but understood them in the whole country, as 
I had made leisurely tours through all the middle States, and par- 
tially through the western and southern, and down to New Or- 
leans, in which city I resided for some time. (I was there at the 
close of the Mexican war — saw and talk'd with General Taylor, 
and the other generals and officers, who were feted and detain' d 
several days on their return victorious from that expedition.) 


Of course many and very contradictory things, specialties, devel- 
opments, constitutional views, &c.,went to make up the origin of 
the war — but the most significant general fact can be best indicated 
and stated as follows : For twenty-five years previous to the out- 
break, the controling "Democratic" nominating conventions of 
our Republic — starting from their primaries in wards or districts, 
and so expanding to counties, powerful cities, States, and to the 
great Presidential nominating conventions — were getting to repre- 
sent and be composed of more and more putrid and dangerous ma- 
terials. Let me give a schedule, or list, of one of these represen- 
tative conventions for a long time before, and inclusive of, that 
which nominated Buchanan. (Remember they had come to be 
the fountains and tissues of the American body politic, forming, 
as it were, the whole blood, legislation, office-holding, &c.) One 
of these conventions, from 1840 to '6o, exhibited a spectacle such 
as could never be seen except in our own age and in these States. 
The members who composed it were, seven-eighths of them, the 
meanest kind of bawling and blowing office-holders, office-seekers, 
pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, fancy-men, custom- 
house clerks, contractors, kept-editors, spaniels well-train'd to 
carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels, disunionists, terrorists, mail- 
riflers, slave-catchers, pushers of slavery, creatures of the Presi- 
dent, creatures of would-be Presidents, spies, bribers, compro- 
misers, lobbyers, sponges, ruin'd sports, expell'd gamblers, policy- 
backers, monte-dealers, duellists, carriers of conceal'd weapons, 
deaf men, pimpled men, scarr'd inside with vile disease, gaudy 
outside with gold chains made from the people's money and har- 
lots' money twisted together ; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy 
combings and born freedom-sellers of the earth. And whence came 
they ? From back-yards and bar-rooms ; from out of the custom- 
houses, marshals' offices, post-offices, and gambling-hells ; from the 
President's house, the jail, the station-house ; from unnamed by- 
places, where devilish disunion was hatch'd at midnight; from 
political hearses, and from the coffins inside, and from the shrouds 
inside of the coffins ; from the tumors and abscesses of the land ; 
from the skeletons and skulls in the vaults of the federal alms- 
houses ; and from the running sores of the great cities. Such, I 
say, form'd, or absolutely control'd the forming, of the entire 
personnel, the atmosphere, nutriment and chyle, of our municipal, 
State, and National politics — substantially permeating, handling, 
deciding, and wielding everything — legislation, nominations, 
elections, "public sentiment," &c. — while the great masses of the 
people, farmers, mechanics, and traders, were helpless in their 
gripe. These conditions were mostly prevalent in the north and 
west, and especially in New York and Philadelphia cities ; and 


the southern leaders, (bad enough, but of a far higher order,) 
struck hands and affiliated with, and used them. Is it strange 
that a thunder-storm follow'd such morbid and stifling cloud- 

I say then, that what, as just outlined, heralded, and made the 
ground ready for secession revolt, ought to be held up, through 
all the future, as the most instructive lesson in American politi- 
cal history — -the most significant warning and beacon-light to 
coming generations. I say that the sixteenth, seventeenth and 
eighteenth terms of the American Presidency have shown that 
the villainy and shallowness of rulers (back'd by the machinery 
of great parties) are just as eligible to these States as to any 
foreign despotism, kingdom, or empire — there is not a bit of 
difference. History is to record those three Presidentiads, and 
especially the administrations of Fillmore and Buchanan, as so 
far our topmost warning and shame. Never were publicly dis- 
play'd more deform'd, mediocre, snivelling, unreliable, false- 
hearted men. Never were these States so insulted, and attempted 
to be betray'd. All the main purposes for which the government 
was established were openly denied. The perfect equality of 
slavery with freedom was flauntingly preach'd in the north — nay, 
the superiority of slavery. The slave trade was proposed to be 
renew'd. Everywhere frowns and misunderstandings — every- 
where exasperations and humiliations. (The slavery contest is 
settled — and the war is long over — yet do not those putrid con- 
ditions, too many of them, still exist? still result in diseases, 
fevers, wounds — not of war and army hospitals — but the wounds 
and diseases of peace?)' 

Out of those generic influences, mainly in New York, Pennsyl- 
vania, Ohio, &c, arose the attempt at disunion. Xo philosophi- 
cal examination, the malignant fever of that war shows its em- 
bryonic sources, and the original nourishment of its life and 
growth, in the north. I say secession, below the surface, origi- 
nated and was brought to maturity in the free S f ates. I allude 
to the score of years preceding i860. My deliberate opinion is 
now, that if at the opening of the contest the abstract duality- 
question of slavery and quiet could have been submitted to a di- 
rect popular vote, as against their opposite, they would have 
triumphantly carried the day in a majority of the northern 
States — in the large cities, leading off with New York and Phila- 
delphia, by tremendous majorities. The events of '6i amazed 
everybody north and south, and burst all prophecies and calcula- 
tions like bubbles. But even then, and during the whole war, 
the stern fact remains that (not only did the north put it down, 


but) the secession cause had nuifieric ally just as many sympathizers 
in the free as in the rebel States. 

As to slavery, abstractly and practically, (its idea, and the deter- 
mination to establish and expand it, especially in the new terri- 
tories, the future America,) it is too common, I repeat, to identify 
it exclusively with the south. In fact down to the opening of 
the war, the whole country had about an equal hand in it. The 
north had at least been just as guilty, if not more guilty; and 
the east and west had. The former Presidents and Congresses 
had been guilty — the governors and legislatures of every north- 
ern State had been guilty, and the mayors of New York and other 
northern cities had all been guilty — their hands were all stain'd. 
And as the conflict took decided shape, it is hard to tell which 
class, the leading southern or northern disunionists, was more 
stunn'd and disappointed at the non-action of the free-state seces- 
sion element, so largely existing and counted on by those leaders, 
both sections. 

So much for that point, and for the north. As to the incep- 
tion and direct instigation of the war, in the south itself, I shall 
not attempt interiors or complications. Behind all, the idea that 
it was from a resolute and arrogant determination on the part of 
the extreme slaveholders, the Calhounites, to carry the states 
rights' portion of the constitutional compact to its farthest verge, 
and nationalize slavery, or else disrupt the Union, and found a 
new empire, with slavery for its corner-stone, was and is undoubt- 
edly the true theory. (If successful, this attempt might — I am 
not sure, but it might — have destroy'd not only our American 
republic, in anything like first-class proportions, in itself and its 
prestige, but for ages at least, the cause of Liberty and Equality 
everywhere — and would have been the greatest triumph of reac- 
tion, and the severest blow to political and every other freedom, 
possible to conceive. Its worst result would have inured to the 
southern States themselves.) That our national democratic ex- 
periment, principle, and machinery, could triumphantly sustain 
such a shock, and that the Constitution could weather it, like a 
ship a storm, and come out of it as sound and whole as before, 
is by far the most signal proof yet of the stability of that experi- 
ment, Democracy, and of those principles, and that Constitution. 

Of the war itself, we know in the ostent what has been done. 
The numbers of the dead and wounded can be told or approxi- 
mated, the debt posted and put on record, the material events 
narrated, &c. Meantime, elections go on, laws are pass'd, politi- 
cal parties struggle, issue their platforms, &c, just the same as 
before. But immensest results, not only in politics, but in lite- 
rature, poems, and sociology, are doubtless waiting yet un- 


form'd in the future. How long they will wait I cannot tell. 
The pageant of history's retrospect shows us, ages since, all Eu- 
rope marching on the crusades, those arm'd uprisings o/ the 
people, stirr'd by a mere idea, to grandest attempt — and, when 
once baffled in it, returning, at intervals, twice, thrice, and again. 
An unsurpass'd series of revolutionary events, influences. Yet it 
took over two hundred years for the seeds of the crusades to ger- 
minate, before beginning even to sprout. Two hundred years 
they lay, sleeping, not dead, but dormant in the ground. Then, 
out of them, unerringly, arts, travel, navigation, politics, litera- 
ture, freedom, the spirit of adventure, inquiry, all arose, grew, 
and steadily sped on to what we see at present. Far back there, 
that huge agitation-struggle of the crusades stands, as undoubt- 
edly the embryo, the start, of the high preeminence of experi- 
ment, civilization and enterprise which the European nations 
have since sustain'd, and of which these States are the heirs. 

Another illustration — (history is full of them, although the 
war itself, the victory of the Union, and the relations of our 
equal States, present features of which there are no precedents in 
the past.) The conquest of England eight centuries ago, by the 
Franco-Normans — the obliteration of the old, (in many respects 
so needing obliteration) — the Domesday Book, and the reparti- 
tion of the land — the old impedimenta removed, even by blood 
and ruthless violence, and a new, progressive genesis established, 
new seeds sown — time has proved plain enough that, bitter as 
they were, all these were the most salutary series of revolutions 
that could possibly have happen'd. Out of them, and by them 
mainly, have come, out of Albic, Roman and Saxon England — 
and without them could not have come — not only the England 
of the 500 years down to the present, and of the present — but 
these States. Nor, except for that terrible dislocation and over- 
turn, would these States, as they are, exist to-day. 

It is certain to me that the United States, by virtue of that war 
and its results, and through that and them only, are now ready to 
enter, and must certainly enter, upon their genuine career in his- 
tory, as no more torn and divided in their spinal requisites, but a 
great homogeneous Nation — free states all — amoral and political 
unity in variety, such as Nature shows in her grandest physical 
works, and as much greater than any mere work of Nature, as the 
moral and political, the work of man, his mind, his soul, are, in 
their loftiest sense, greater than the merely physical. Out of that 
war not only has the nationalty of the States escaped from being 
strangled, but more than any of the rest, and, in my opinion, 
more than the north itself, the vital heart and breath of the south 
have escaped as from the pressure of a general nightmare, and 

PREFACE, 1855. 263 

are henceforth to enter on a life, development, and active free- 
dom, whose realities are certain in the future, notwithstanding 
all the southern vexations of the hour — a development which 
could not possibly have been achiev'd on any less terms, or by 
any other means than that grim lesson, or something equivalent 
to it. And I predict that the south is yet to outstrip the north. 

PREFACE, 1855, 

to first issue of ' l Leaves of Grass. ' ' 

Brooklyn, N. Y. 

America does not repel the past, or what the past has produced 
under its forms, or amid other politics, or the idea of castes, or 
the old religions — accepts the lesson with calmness — is not im- 
patient because the slough still sticks to opinions and manners 
and literature, while the life which served its requirements has 
passed into the new life of the new forms — perceives that the 
corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the 
house — perceives that it waits a little while in the door — that it 
was fittest for its days — that its action has descended to the stal- 
wart and well-shaped heir who approaches — and that he shall be 
fittest for his days. 

The Americans of all nations at anytime upon the earth, have 
probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States them- 
selves are essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the 
earth hitherto, the largest and most stirring appear tame and or- 
derly to their ampler largeness and stir. Here at last is some- 
thing in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast 
doings of the day and night. Here is action untied from strings, 
necessarily blind to particulars and details, magnificently moving 
in masses. Here is the hospitality which for ever indicates he- 
roes. Here the performance, disdaining the trivial, unapproach'd 
in the tremendous audacity of its crowds and groupings, and 
the push of its perspective, spreads with crampless and flowing 
breadth, and showers its prolific and splendid extravagance. One 
sees it must indeed own the riches of the summer and winter, 
and need never be bankrupt while corn grows from the ground, 
or the orchards drop apples, or the bays contain fish, or men 
beget children upon women. 

Other states indicate themselves in their deputies — but the ge- 

2 6 4 COLLECT. 

nius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or 
legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors, or colleges or 
churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapapers or inventors — 
but always most in the common people, south, north, west, east, 
in all its States, through all its mighty amplitude. The largeness 
of the nation, however, were monstrous without a corresponding 
largeness and generosity of the spirit of the citizen. Not swarm- 
ing states, nor streets and steamships, nor prosperous business, 
nor farms, nor capital, nor learning, may suffice for the ideal of 
man — nor suffice the poet. No reminiscences may suffice either. 
A live nation can always cut a deep mark, and can have the best 
authority the cheapest — namely, from its own soul. This is the 
sum of the profitable uses of individuals or states, and of present 
action and grandeur, and of the subjects of poets. (As if it were 
necessary to trot back generation after generation to the eastern 
records ! As if the beauty and sacredness of the demonstrable 
must fall behind that of the mythical ! As if men do not make 
their mark out of any times ! As if the opening of the west- 
ern continent by discoyery, and what has transpired in North and 
South America, were less than the small theatre of the antique, 
or the aimless sleep-walking of the middle ages !) The pride of 
the United States leaves the wealth and finesse of the cities, and 
all returns of commerce and agriculture, and all the magnitude 
of geography or shows of exterior victory, to enjoy the sight and 
realization of full-sized men, or one full-sized man unconquerable 
and simple. 

The American poets are to enclose old and new, for America 
is the race of races. The expression of the American poet is to 
be transcendent and new. It is to be indirect, and not direct or 
descriptive or epic. Its quality goes through these to much 
more. Let the age and wars of other nations be chanted, and 
their eras and characters be illustrated, and that finish the verse. 
Not so the great psalm of the republic. Here the theme is cre- 
ative, and has vista. Whatever stagnates in the flat of custom or 
obedience or legislation, the great poet never stagnates. Obe- 
dience does not master him, he masters it. High up out of reach 
he stands, turning a concentrated light — he turns the pivot with 
his finger — he baffles the swiftest runners as he stands, and easily 
overtakes and envelopes them. The time straying toward infi- 
delity and confections and persiflage he withholds by steady faith. 
Faith is the antiseptic of the soul — it pervades the common 
people and preserves them — they never give up believing and ex- 
pecting and trusting. There is that indescribable freshness and 
unconsciousness about an illiterate person, that humbles and 
mocks the power of the noblest expressive genius. The poet 

PREFACE, i8s5- 265 

sees for a certainty how one not a great artist may be just as 
sacred and perfect as the greatest artist. 

The power to destroy or remould is freely used by the greatest 
poet, but seldom the power of attack. What is past is past. If 
he does not expose superior models, and prove himself by every 
step he takes, he is not what is wanted. The presence of the 
great poet conquers — not parleying, or struggling, or any pre- 
pared attempts. Now he has passed that way, see after him ! 
There is not left any vestige of despair, or misanthropy, or cun- 
ning, or exclusiveness, or the ignominy of a nativity or color, or 
delusion of hell or the necessity of hell — and no man thencefor- 
ward shall be degraded for ignorance or weakness or sin. The 
greatest poet hardly knows pettiness or triviality. If he breathes 
into anything that was before thought small, it dilates with the 
grandeur and life of the universe. He is a seer — he is individ- 
ual — he is complete in himself — the others are as good as he, only 
he sees it, and they do not. He is not one of the chorus — he 
does not stop for any regulation — he is the president of regula- 
tion. What the eyesight does to the rest, he does to the rest. 
Who knows the curious mystery of the eyesight? The other 
senses corroborate themselves, but this is removed from any proof 
but its own, and foreruns the identities of the spiritual world. 
A single glance of it mocks all the investigations of man, and all 
the instruments and books of the earth, and all reasoning. What 
is marvellous? what is unlikely? what is impossible or baseless 
or vague — after you have once just open'd the space of a peach- 
pit, and given audience to far and near, and to the sunset, and 
had all things enter with electric swiftness, softly and duly, with- 
out confusion or jostling or jam? 

The land and sea, the animals, fishes and birds, the sky of 
heaven and the orbs, the forests, mountains and rivers, are not 
small themes — but folks expect of the poet to indicate more than 
the beauty and dignity which always attach to dumb real objects — 
they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their 
souls. Men and women perceive the beauty well enough — prob- 
ably as well as he. The passionate tenacity of hunters, wood- 
men, early risers, cultivators of gardens and orchards and fields, 
the love of healthy women for the manly form, seafaring persons, 
drivers of horses, the passion for light and the open air, all is an 
old varied sign of the unfailing perception of beauty, and of a 
residence of the poetic in out-door people. They can never be 
assisted by poets to perceive — some may, but they never can. 
The poetic quality is not marshal'd in rhyme or uniformity, or 
abstract addresses to things, nor in melancholy complaints or 
good precepts, but is the life of these and much else, and is in 



the soul. The profit of rhyme is that it drops seeds of a sweeter 
and more luxuriant rhyme, and of uniformity that it conveys 
itself into its own roots in the ground out of sight. The rhyme 
and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metri- 
cal laws, and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs 
and roses on a bush, and take shapes as compact as the shapes of 
chestnuts and oranges, and melons and pears, and shed the per- 
fume impalpable to form. The fluency and ornaments of the finest 
poems or music or orations or recitations, are not independent 
but dependent. All beauty comes from beautiful blood and a 
beautiful brain. If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man 
or woman, it is enough — the fact will prevail through the uni- 
verse; but the gaggery and gilt of a million years will not pre- 
vail. Who troubles himself about his ornaments or fluency is 
lost. This is what you shall do : Love the earth and sun and 
the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand 
up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to 
others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience 
and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing 
known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely 
with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with 
the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in 
school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults 
your own soul ; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and 
have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent 
lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, 
and in every motion and joint of your body. The poet shall not 
spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground 
is already plough'd and manured ; others may not know it, but 
he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall 
master the trust of everything he touches — and shall master all 

The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the 
greatest poet. He consumes an eternal passion, and is indiffer- 
ent which chance happens, and which possible contingency of 
fortune or misfortune, and persuades daily and hourly his delicious 
pay. What baulks or breaks others is fuel for his burning prog- 
ress to contact and amorous joy. Other proportions of the recep- 
tion of pleasure dwindle to nothing to his proportions. All 
expected from heaven or from the highest, he is rapport with in 
the sight of the daybreak, or the scenes of the winter woods, or 
the presence of children playing, or with his arm round the neck 
of a man or woman. His love above all love has leisure and ex- 
panse — he leaves room ahead of himself. He is no irresolute or 
suspicious lover — he is sure — he scorns intervals. His experience 

PREFACE, i8j5. 267 

and the showers and thrills are not for nothing. Nothing can 
jar him — suffering and darkness cannot — death and fear cannot. 
To him complaint and jealousy and envy are corpses buried and 
rotten in the earth — he saw them buried. The sea is not^surer 
of the shore, or the shore of the sea, than he is the fruition of 
his love, and of all perfection and beauty. 

The fruition of beauty is no chance of miss or hit — it is as in- 
evitable as life — it is exact and plumb as gravitation. From the 
eyesight proceeds another eyesight, and from the hearing pro- 
ceeds another hearing, and from the voice proceeds another voice, 
eternally curious of the harmony of things with man. These 
understand the law of perfection in masses and floods — that it is 
profuse and impartial — that there is not a minute of the light or 
dark, nor an acre of the earth and sea, without it — nor any di- 
rection of the sky, nor any trade or employment, nor any turn 
of events. This is the reason that about the proper expression 
of beauty there is precision and balance. One part does not need 
to be thrust above another. The best singer is not the one who 
has the most lithe and powerful organ. The pleasure of poems 
is not in them that take the handsomest measure and sound. 

Without effort, and without exposing in the least how it is 
done, the greatest poet brings the spirit of any or all events and 
passions and scenes and persons, some more and some less, to 
bear on your individual character as you hear or read. To do 
this well is to compete with the laws that pursue and follow Time. 
What is the purpose must surely be there, and the clue of it must 
be there — and the faintest indication is the indication of the best, 
and then becomes the clearest indication. Past and present and 
future are not disjoin'd but join'd. The greatest poet forms the 
consistence of what is to be, from what has been and is. He 
drags the dead out of their coffins and stands them again on their 
feet. He says to the past, Rise and walk before me that I may 
realize you. He learns the lesson — he places himself where the 
future becomes present. The greatest poet does not only dazzle 
his rays over character and scenes and passions — he finally ascends, 
and finishes all — he exhibits the pinnacles that no man can tell 
what they are for, or what is beyond — he glows a moment on the 
extremest verge. He is most wonderful in his last half-hidden 
smile or frown ; by that flash of the moment of parting the one 
that sees it shall be encouraged or terrified afterward for many 
years. The greatest poet does not moralize or make applications 
of morals — he knows the soul. The soul has that measureless 
pride which consists in never acknowledging any lessons or de- 
ductions but its own. But it has sympathy as measureless as its 
pride, and the one balances the other, and neither can stretch 


too far while it stretches in company with the other. The in- 
most secrets of art sleep with the twain. The greatest poet has 
lain close betwixt both, and they are vital in his style and 

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the 
light of letters, is simplicity. Nothing is better than simplicity — 
nothing can make up for excess, or for the lack of definiteness. 
To carry on the heave of impulse and pierce intellectual depths 
and give all subjects their articulations, are powers neither com- 
mon nor very uncommon. But to speak in literature with the 
perfect rectitude and insouciance of the movements of animals, 
and the unimpeachableness of the sentiment of trees in the woods 
and grass by the roadside, is the flawless triumph of art. If you 
have look'd on him who has achiev'd it you have look'd on one 
of the masters of the artists of all nations and times. You shall 
not contemplate the flight of the gray gull over the bay, or the 
mettlesome action of the blood horse, or the tall leaning of sun- 
flowers on their stalk, or the appearance of the sun journeying 
through heaven, or the appearance of the moon afterward, with 
any more satisfaction than you shall contemplate him. The great 
poet has less a mark'd style, and is more the channel of thoughts 
and things without increase or diminution, and is the free chan- 
nel of himself. He swears to his art, I will not be meddlesome, 
I will not have in my writing any elegance, or effect, or origi- 
nality, to hang in the way between me and the rest like curtains. 
I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains. 
What I tell I tell for precisely what it is. Let who may exalt or 
startle or fascinate or soothe, I will have purposes as health or 
heat or snow has, and be as regardless of observation. What I 
experience or portray shall go from my composition without a 
shred of my composition. You shall stand by my side and look 
in the mirror with me. 

The old red blood and stainless gentility of great poets will 
be proved by their unconstraint. A heroic person walks at his 
ease through and out of that custom or precedent or authority 
that suits him not. Of the traits of the brotherhood of first- 
class writers, savans, musicians, inventors and artists, nothing is 
finer than silent defiance advancing from new free forms. In the 
need of poems, philosophy, politics, mechanism, science, beha- 
vior, the craft of art, an appropriate native grand opera, ship- 
craft, or any craft, he is greatest for ever and ever who contrib- 
utes the greatest original practical example. The cleanest ex- 
pression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself, and makes 

The messages of great poems to each man and woman are, 

PREFACE, i8jj. 269 

Come to us on equal terms, only then can you understand us. 
We are no better than you, what we inclose you inclose, what 
we enjoy you may enjoy. Did you suppose there could be only 
one Supreme? We affirm there can be unnumber'd Supremes, 
and that one does not countervail another any more than one 
eyesight countervails another — and that men can be good or 
grand only of the consciousness of their supremacy within them. 
What do you think is the grandeur of storms and dismember- 
ments, and the deadliest battles and wrecks, and the wildest fury 
of the elements, and the power of the sea, and the motion of 
nature, and the throes of human desires, and dignity and hate 
and love? It is that something in the soul which says, Rage on, 
whirl on, I tread master here and everywhere — Master of the 
spasms of the sky and of the shatter of the sea, Master of nature 
and passion and death, and of all terror and all pain. 

The American bards shall be mark'd for generosity and af- 
fection, and for encouraging competitors. They shall be Kos- 
mos, without monopoly or secrecy, glad to pass anything to any 
one — hungry for equals night and day. They shall not be care- 
ful of riches and privilege — they shall be riches and privilege — 
they shall perceive who the most affluent man is. The most af- 
fluent man is he that confronts all the shows he sees by equiva- 
lents out of the stronger wealth of himself. The American bard 
shall delineate, no class of persons, nor one or two out of the strata 
of interests, nor love most nor truth most, nor the soul most, 
nor the body most — and not be for the Eastern states more than 
the Western, or the Northern states more than the Southern. 

Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on 
the greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support. 
The outset and remembrance are there — there the arms that lifted 
him first, and braced him best — there he returns after all his 
goings and comings. The sailor and traveler — the anatomist, 
chemist, astronomer, geologist, phrenologist, spiritualist, mathe- 
matician, historian, and lexicographer, are not poets, but they 
are the lawgivers of poets, and their construction underlies the 
structure of every perfect poem. No matter what rises or is 
utter'd, they sent the seed of the conception of it — of them and 
by them stand the visible proofs of souls. If there shall be love 
and content between the father and the son, and if the great- 
ness of the son is the exuding of the greatness of the father, 
there shall be love between the poet and the man of demonstra- 
ble science. In the beauty of poems are henceforth the tuft and 
final applause of science. 

Great is the faith of the flush of knowledge, and of the inves- 
tigation of the depths of qualities and things. Cleaving and 



circling here swells the soul of the poet, yet is president of itself 
always. The depths are fathomless, and therefore calm. The in- 
nocence and nakedness are resumed — they are neither modest 
nor immodest. The whole theory of the supernatural, and all 
that was twined with it or educed out of it, departs as a dream. 
What has ever happen'd — what happens, and whatever may or 
shall happen, the vital laws inclose all. They are sufficient for 
any case and for all cases — none to be hurried or retarded — 
any special miracle of affairs or persons inadmissible in the vast 
clear scheme where every motion and every spear of grass, and the 
frames and spirits of men and women and all that concerns them, 
are unspeakably perfect miracles, all referring to all, and each 
distinct and in its place. It is also not consistent with the reality 
of the soul to admit that there is anything in the known universe 
more divine than men -and women. 

Men and women, and the earth and all upon it, are to be taken 
as they are, and the investigation of their past and present and 
future shall be unintermitted, and shall be done with perfect can- 
dor. Upon this basis philosophy speculates, ever looking towards 
the poet, ever regarding the eternal tendencies of all toward 
happiness, never inconsistent with what is clear to the senses and 
to the soul. For the eternal tendencies of all toward happiness 
make the only point of sane philosophy. Whatever comprehends 
less than that — whatever is less than the laws of light and of as- 
tronomical motion — or less than the laws that follow the thief, 
the liar, the glutton and the drunkard, through this life and 
doubtless afterward — or less than vast stretches of time, or the 
slow formation of density, or the patient upheaving of strata — is 
of no account. Whatever would put God in a poem or system 
of philosophy as contending against some being or influence, 
is also of no account. Sanity and ensemble characterize the great 
master — spoilt in one principle, ail is spoilt. The great master 
has nothing to do with miracles. He sees health for himself in 
being one of the mass — he sees the hiatus in singular eminence. 
To the perfect shape comes common ground. To be under the 
general law is great, for that is to correspond with it. The master 
knows that he is unspeakably great, and that all are unspeakably 
great — that nothing, for instance, is greater than to conceive 
children, and bring them up well — that to be is just as great as to 
perceive or tell. 

In the make of the great masters the idea of political liberty 
is indispensable. Liberty takes the adherence of heroes wherever 
man and woman exist — but never takes any adherence or welcome 
from the rest more than from poets. They are the voice and ex- 
position of liberty. They out of ages are worthy the grand idea 

PREFACE, i8js. 271 

— to them it is confided, and they must sustain it. Nothing has 
precedence of it, and nothing can warp or degrade it. 

As the attributes of the poets of the kosmos concentre in the 
real body, and in the pleasure of things, they possess the superi- 
ority of genuineness over all fiction and romance. As they emit 
themselves, facts are shower'd over with light — the daylight is 
lit with more volatile light — the deep between the setting and 
rising sun goes deeper many fold. Each precise object or condi- 
tion or combination or process exhibits a beauty — the multipli- 
cation table its — old age its — the carpenter's trade its — the grand 
opera its — the huge-hull'd clean-shap'd New York clipper at sea 
under steam or full sail gleams with unmatched beauty — the 
American circles and large harmonies of government gleam with 
theirs — and the commonest definite intentions and actions with 
theirs. The poets of the kosmos advance through all interposi- 
tions and coverings and turmoils and stratagems to first princi- 
ples. They are of use — they dissolve poverty from its need, and 
riches from its conceit. You large proprietor, they say, shall not 
realize or perceive more than any one else. The owner of the li- 
brary is not he who holds a legal title to it, having bought and paid 
for it. Any one and every one is owner of the library, (in- 
deed he or she alone is owner,) who can read the same through 
all the varieties of tongues and subjects and styles, and in whom 
they enter with ease, and make supple and powerful and rich 
and large. 

These American States, strong and healthy and accomplished, 
shall receive no pleasure from violations of natural models, and 
must not permit them. In paintings or mouldings or carvings in 
mineral or wood, or in the illustrations of books or newspapers, 
or in the patterns of woven stuffs, or anything to beautify rooms 
or furniture or costumes, or to put upon cornices or monuments, or 
on the prows or sterns of ships, or to put anywhere before the 
human eye indoors or out, that which distorts honest shapes, or 
which creates unearthly beings or places or contingencies, is a 
nuisance and revolt. Of the human form especially, it is so great 
it must never be made ridiculous. Of ornaments to a work noth- 
ing outre can be allow' d — but those ornaments can be allow' d 
that conform to the perfect facts of the open air, and that flow 
out of the nature of the work, and come irrepressibly from it, 
and are necessary to the completion of the work. Most works 
are most beautiful without ornament. Exaggerations will be re- 
venged in human physiology. Clean and vigorous children are 
jetted and conceiv'd only in those communities where the models 
of natural forms are public every day. Great genius and the 
people of these States must never be demean'd to romances. 


As soon as histories are properly told, no more need of ro- 

The great poets are to be known by the absence in them of 
tricks, and by the justification of perfect personal candor. All 
faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor. Hence- 
forth let no man of us lie, for we have seen that openness wins 
the inner and outer world, and that there is no single exception, 
and that never since our earth gather'd itself in a mass have de- 
ceit or subterfuge or prevarication attracted its smallest particle 
or the faintest tinge of a shade — and that through the envelop- 
ing wealth and rank of a state, or the whole republic of states, a 
sneak or sly person shall be discover' d and despised — and that 

the soul has never once -been fool'd and never can be fool'd 

and thrift without the loving nod of the soul is only a fcetid puff 
— and there never grew up in any of the continents of the globe, 
nor upon any planet or satellite, nor in that condition which pre- 
cedes the birth of babes, nor at any time during the changes of 
life, nor in any stretch of abeyance or action of vitality, nor in 
any process of formation or reformation anywhere, a being whose 
instinct hated the truth. 

Extreme caution or prudence, the soundest organic health, 
large hope and comparison and fondness for women and chil- 
dren, large alimentiveness and destructiveness and causality, with 
a perfect sense of the oneness of nature, and the propriety of the 
same spirit applied to human affairs, are called up of the float of the 
brain of the world to be parts of the greatest poet from his birth out 
of his mother's womb, and from her birth out of her mother's. 
Caution seldom goes far enough. It has been thought that the pru- 
dent citizen was the citizen who applied himself to solid gains, 
and did well for himself and for his family, and completed a law- 
ful life without debt or crime. The greatest poet sees and admits 
these economies as he sees the economies of food and sleep, but 
has higher notions of prudence than to think he gives much when 
he gives a few slight attentions at the latch of the gate. The 
premises of the prudence of life are not the hospitality of it, or 
the ripeness and harvest of it. Beyond the independence of a 
little sum laid aside for burial-money, and of a few clap-boards 
around and shingles overhead on a lot of American soil own'd, 
and the easy dollars that supply the year's plain clothing and 
meals, the melancholy prudence of the abandonment of such a 
great being as a man is, to the toss and pallor of years of money- 
making, with all their scorching days and icy nights, and all 
their stifling deceits and underhand dodgings, or infinitesimals 
of parlors, or shameless stuffing while others starve, and all the 
loss of the bloom and odor of the earth, and of the flowers and 

PREFACE, i8js- 273 

atmosphere, and of the sea, and of the true taste of the women 
and men you pass or have to do with in youth or middle age, and 
the issuing sickness and desperate revolt at the close of a life 
without elevation or naivete, (even if you have achiev'd a secure 
10,000 a year, or election to Congress or the Governorship,) and 
the ghastly chatter of a death without serenity or majesty, is the 
great fraud upon modern civilization and forethought, blotching 
the surface and system which civilization undeniably drafts, and 
moistening with tears the immense features it spreads and spreads 
with such velocity before the reach'd kisses of the soul. 

Ever the right explanation remains to be made about prudence. 
The prudence of the mere wealth and respectability of the most 
esteem'd life appears too faint for the eye to observe at all, when 
little and large alike drop quietly aside at the thought of the pru- 
dence suitable for immortality. What is the wisdom that fills the 
thinness of a year, or seventy or eighty years — to the wisdom 
spaced out by ages, and coming back at a certain time with strong 
reinforcements and rich presents, and the clear faces of wedding- 
guests as far as you can look, in every direction, running gaily 
toward you? Only the soul is of itself — all else has reference to 
what ensues. All that a person does or thinks is of consequence. 
Nor can the push of charity or personal force ever be anything 
else than the profoundest reason, whether it brings argument to 
hand or no. No specification is necessary — to add or subtract 
or divide is in vain. Little or big, learn'd or unlearn'd, white 
or black, legal or illegal, sick or well, from the first inspiration 
down the windpipe to the last expiration out of it, all that a male 
or female does that is vigorous and benevolent and clean is so 
much sure profit to him or her in the unshakable order of the 
universe, and through the whole scope of it forever. The pru- 
dence of the greatest poet answers at last the craving and glut 
of the soul, puts off nothing, permits no let-up for its own case 
or any case, has no particular sabbath or judgment day, divides 
not the living from the dead, or the righteous from the unright- 
eous, is satisfied with the present, matches every thought or act 
by its correlative, and knows no possible forgiveness or deputed 

The direct trial of him who would be the greatest poet is to- 
day. If he does not flood himself with the immediate age as 
with vast oceanic tides — if he be not himself the age transfigur'd, 
and if to him is not open'd the eternity which gives similitude 
to all periods and locations and processes, and animate and in- 
animate forms, and which is the bond of time, and rises up from 
its inconceivable vagueness and infiniteness in the swimming 
shapes of to-day, and is held by the ductile anchors of life, and 


makes the present spot the passage from what was to what shall 
be, and commits itself to the representation of this wave of an 
hour, and this one of the sixty beautiful children of the wave — 
let him merge in the general run, and wait his development. 

Still the final test of poems, or any character or work, remains. 
The prescient poet projects himself centuries ahead, and judges 
performer or performance after the changes of time. Does it 
live through them ? Does it still hold on untired ? Will the 
same style, and the direction of genius to similar points, be satis- 
factory now? Have the marches of tens and hundreds and 
thousands of years made willing detours to the right hand and 
the left hand for his sake ? Is he beloved long and long after he 
is buried ? Does the young man think often of him ? and the 
young woman think often of him? and do the middle-aged and 
the old think of him? 

A great poem is for ages and ages in common, and for all de- 
grees and complexions, and all departments and sects, and for a 
woman as much as a man, and a man as much as a woman. A great 
poem is no finish to a man or woman, but rather a beginning. 
Has any one fancied he could sit at last under some due authority, 
and rest satisfied with explanations, and realize, and be content 
and full ? To no such terminus does the greatest poet bring — 
he brings neither cessation nor shelter'd fatness and ease. The 
touch of him, like Nature, tells in action. Whom he takes he 
takes with firm sure grasp into live regions previously unattain'd 
— thenceforward is no rest — they see the space and ineffable sheen 
that turn the old spots and lights into dead vacuums. Now there 
shall be a man cohered out of tumult and chaos — the elder en- 
courages the younger and shows him how — they two shall launch 
off fearlessly together till the new world fits an orbit for itself, 
and looks unabash'd on the lesser orbits of the stars, and sweeps 
through the ceaseless rings, and shall never be quiet again. 

There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done. A 
new order shall arise, and they shall be the priests of man, and 
every man shall be his own priest. They shall find their inspira- 
tion in real objects to-day, symptoms of the past and future. 
They shall not deign to defend immortality or God, or the per- 
fection of things, or liberty, or the exquisite beauty and reality 
of the soul. They shall arise in America, and be responded to 
from the remainder of the earth. 

The English language befriends the grand American expres- 
sion — it is brawny enough, and limber and full enough. On the 
tough stock of a race who through all change of circumstance 
was never without the idea of political liberty, which is the animus 
of all liberty, it has attracted the terms of daintier and gayer and 

PREFACE, 1872. 275 

subtler and more elegant tongues. It is the powerful language of 
resistance — it is the dialect of common sense. It is the speech 
of the proud and melancholy races, and of all who aspire. It is 
the chosen tongue to express growth, faith, self-esteem, freedom, 
justice, equality, friendliness, amplitude, prudence, decision, and 
courage. It is the medium that shall wellnigh express the inex- 

No great literature, nor any like style of behavior or oratory, 
or social intercourse or household arrangements, or public insti- 
tutions, or the treatment by bosses of employ' d people, nor ex- 
ecutive detail, or detail of the army and navy, nor spirit of leg- 
islation or courts, or police or tuition or architecture, or songs 
or amusements, can long elude the jealous and passionate instinct 
of American standards. Whether or no the sign appears from 
the mouths of the people, it throbs a live interrogation in every 
freeman's and freewoman's heart, after that which passes by, or 
this built to remain. Is it uniform with my country? Are its 
disposals without ignominious distinctions ? Is it for the ever- 
growing communes of brothers and lovers, large, well united, 
proud, beyond the old models, generous beyond all models? Is 
it something grown fresh out of the fields, or drawn from the sea 
for use to me to-day here ? I know that what answers for me, an . 
American, in Texas, Ohio, Canada, must answer for any individ- 
ual or nation that serves for a part of my materials. Does this 
answer ? Is it for the nursing of the young of the republic ? 
Does it solve readily with the sweet milk of the nipples of the 
breasts of the Mother of Many Children ? 

America prepares with composure and good-will for the visitors 
that have sent word. It is not intellect that is to be their war- 
rant and welcome. The talented, the artist, the ingenious, the 
editor, the statesman, the erudite, are not unappreciated — they 
fall in their place and do their work. The soul of the nation 
also does its work. It rejects none, it permits all. Only toward 
the like of itself will it advance half way. An individual is as 
superb as a nation when he has the qualities which make a superb 
nation. The soul of the largest and wealthiest and proudest na- 
tion may well go half-way to meet that of its poets. 

PREFACE, 1872, 

to " As a Strong Bird on- Pinions Free" 

{now " Thou Mother with thy Equal Brood " in permanent ed'n.) 

The impetus and ideas urging me, for some years past, to an 
utterance, or attempt at utterance, of New World songs, and an 


epic of Democracy, having already had their published expres- 
sion, as well as I can expect to give it, in " Leaves of Grass," 
the present and any future pieces from me are really but the sur- 
plusage forming after that volume, or the wake eddying behind 
it. I fulfill'd in that an imperious conviction, and the commands 
of my nature as total and irresistible as those which make the 
sea flow, or the globe revolve. But of this supplementary volume, 
I confess I am not so certain. Having from early manhood aban- 
don'd the business pursuits and applications usual in my time 
and country, and obediently yielded myself up ever since to the 
impetus mention'd, and to the work of expressing those ideas, it 
may be that mere habit has got dominion of me, when there is 
no real need of saying any thing further. But what is life but 
an experiment? and mortality but an exercise? with reference to 
results beyond. And so shall my poems be. If incomplete here, 
and superfluous there, riimporte — the earnest trial and persistent 
exploration shall at least be mine, and other success failing shall 
be success enough. I have been more anxious, anyhow, to suggest 
the songs of vital endeavor and manly evolution, and furnish 
something for races of outdoor rthletes, than to make perfect 
rhymes, or reign in the parlors. I ventur'd from the beginning 
my own way, taking chances — and would keep on venturing. 

I will therefore not conceal from any persons, known or un- 
known to me, who take an interest in the matter, that I have the 
ambition of devoting yet a few years to poetic composition. 
The mighty present age ! To absorb and express in poetry, any- 
thing of it — of its world — America — cities and States — the years, 
the events of our Nineteenth century — the rapidity of movement 
— the violent contrasts, fluctuations of light and shade, of hope 
and fear — the entire revolution made by science in the poetic 
method — these great new underlying facts and new ideas rushing 
and spreading everywhere ; — truly a mighty age ! As if in some 
colossal drama, acted again like those of old under the open 
sun, the Nations of our time, and all the characteristics of Civi- 
lization, seem hurrying, stalking across, flitting from wing to wing, 
gathering, closing up, toward some long-prepared, most tremen- 
dous denouement. Not to conclude the infinite scenas of the 
race's life and toil and happiness and sorrow, but haply that the 
boards be clear'd from oldest, worst incumbrances, accumulations, 
and Man resume the eternal play anew, and under happier, freer 
auspices. To me, the United States are important because in 
this colossal drama they are unquestionably designated for the 
leading parts, for many a century to come. In them history and 
humanity seem to seek to culminate. Our broad areas are even 
now the busy theatre of plots, passions, interests, and suspended 

PREFACE, 1872. 277 

problems, compared to which the intrigues of the past of Europe, 
the wars of dynasties, the scope of kings and kingdoms, and even 
the development of peoples, as hitherto, exhibit scales of meas- 
urement comparatively narrow and trivial. And on these areas 
of ours, as on a stage, sooner or later, something like an eclair- 
cissement of all the past civilization of Europe and Asia is proba- 
bly to be evolved. 

The leading parts. Not to be acted, emulated here, by us again, 
that role till now foremost in history — not to become a conqueror 
nation, or to achieve the glory of mere military, or diplomatic, 
or commercial superiority — but to become the grand producing 
land of nobler men and women — of copious races, cheerful, 
healthy, tolerant, free — to become the most friendly nation, (the 
United States indeed) — the modern composite nation, form'd 
from all, with room for all, welcoming all immigrants — accepting 
the work of our own interior development, as the work fitly fill- 
ing ages and ages to come ; — the leading nation of peace, but 
neither ignorant nor incapable of being the leading nation of 
war ; — not the man's nation only, but the woman's nation — a land 
of splendid mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. 

Our America to-day I consider in many respects as but indeed 
a vast seething mass of materials, ampler, better, (worse also,) 
than previously known — eligible to be used to carry towards its 
crowning stage, and build for good, the great ideal nationality of 
the future, the nation of the body and the soul,* — no limit here 
to land, help, opportunities, mines, products, demands, supplies, 
&c. ; — with (I think) our political organization, National, State, 
and Municipal, permanently established, as far ahead as we can 
calculate — but, so far, no social, literary, religious, or esthetic 
organizations, consistent with our politics, or becoming to us — 
which organizations can only come, in time, through great demo- 
cratic ideas, religion — through science, which now, like a new sun- 
rise, ascending, begins to illuminate all — and through our own 
begotten poets and literatuses. (The moral of a late well-written 
book on civilization seems to be that the only real foundation- 
walls and bases — and also sine qua non afterward — of true and 

* The problems of the achievements of this crowning stage through future 
first-class National Singers, Orators, Artists, and others — of creating in litera- 
ture an imaginative New World, the correspondent and counterpart of the 
current Scientific and Political New Worlds, — and the perhaps distant, but still 
delightful prospect, (for our children, if not in our own day,) of delivering 
America, and, indeed, all Christian lands everywhere, from the thin moribund 
and watery, but appallingly extensive nuisance of conventional poetry — by 
putting something really alive and substantial in its place — I have undertaken 
to grapple with, and argue, in the preceding " Democratic Vistas." 


full civilization, is the eligibility and certainty of boundless prod- 
ucts for feeding, clothing, sheltering everybody — perennial foun- 
tains of physical and domestic comfort, with intercommunica- 
tion, and with civil and ecclesiastical freedom — and that then 
the esthetic and mental business will take care of itself. Well, 
the United States have established this basis, and upon scales of 
extent, variety, vitality, and continuity, rivaling those of Nature; 
and have now to proceed to build an edifice upon it. I say this 
edifice is only to be fitly built by new literatures, especially the 
poetic. I say a modern image-making creation is indispensable 
to fuse and express the modern political and scientific creations 
— and then the trinity will be complete.) 

When I commenced, years ago, elaborating the plan of my 
poems, and continued turning over that plan, and shifting it in 
my mind through many years, (from the age of twenty-eight to 
thirty-five,) experimenting much, and writing and abandoning 
much, one deep purpose underlay the others, and has underlain 
it and its execution ever since — and that has been the religious 
purpose. Amid many changes, and a formulation taking far 
different shape from what I at first supposed, this basic purpose 
has never been departed from in the composition of my verses. 
Not of course to exhibit itself in the old ways, as in writing 
hymns or psalms with an eye to the church-pew, or to express 
conventional pietism, or the sickly yearnings of devotees, but in 
new ways, and aiming at the widest sub-bases and inclusions of 
humanity, and tallying the fresh air of sea and land. I will see, 
(said I to myself,) whether there is not, for my purposes as poet, 
a religion, and a sound religious, germenancy in the average hu- 
man race, at least in their modern development in the United 
States, and in the hardy common fibre and native yearnings and 
elements, deeper and larger, and affording more profitable re- 
turns, than all mere sects or churches — as boundless, joyous, and 
vital as Nature itself — a germenancy that has too long been unen- 
couraged, unsung, almost unknown. With science, the old 
theology of the East, long in its dotage, begins evidently to die 
and disappear. But (to my mind) science — and may be such 
will prove its principal service — as evidently prepares the way 
for One indescribably grander — Time's young but perfect off- 
spring — the new theology — heir of the West — lusty and loving, 
and wondrous beautiful. For America, and for to-day, just the 
same as any day, the supreme and final science is the science of 
God — what we call science being only its minister — as Democ- 
racy is, or shall be also. And a poet of America (I said) must fill 
himself with such thoughts, and chant his best out of them. 
And as those were the convictions and aims, for good or bad, of 

PREFACE, 1872. 279 

"Leaves of Grass," they are no less the intention of this vol- 
ume. As there can be, in my opinion, no sane and complete 
personality, nor any grand and electric nationality, without the 
stock element of religion imbuing all the other elements, (like 
heat in chemistry, invisible itself, but the life of all visible life,) 
so there can be no poetry worthy the name without that element 
behind all. The time has certainly come to begin to discharge 
the idea of religion, in the United States, from mere ecclesiasti- 
cism, and from Sundays and churches and church-going, and 
assign it to that general position, chiefest, most indispensable, 
most exhilarating, to which the others are to be adjusted, inside 
of all human character, and education, and affairs. The people, 
especially the young men and women of America, must begin to 
learn that religion, (like poetry,) is something far, far different 
from what they supposed. It is, indeed, too important to the 
power and perpetuity of the New World to be consign'd any 
longer to the churches, old or new, Catholic or Protestant — 
Saint this, or Saint that. It must be consign'd henceforth to 
democracy en masse, and to literature. It must enter into the 
poems of the nation. It must make the nation. 

The Four Years' War is over — and in the peaceful, strong, 
exciting, fresh occasions of to-day, and of the future, that 
strange, sad war is hurrying even now to be forgotten. The 
camp, the drill, the lines of sentries, the prisons, the hospitals, 
— (ah ! the hospitals !) — all have passed away — all seem now like 
a dream. A new race, a young and lusty generation, already 
sweeps in Vith oceanic currents, obliterating the War, and all its 
scars, its mounded graves, and all its reminiscences of hatred, 
conflict, death. So let it be obliterated. I say the life of the 
present and the future makes undeniable demands upon us each 
and all, south, north, east, west. To help put the United States 
(even if only in imagination) hand in hand, in one unbroken 
circle in a chant — to rouse them to the unprecedented grandeur 
of the part they are to play, and are even now playing — to the 
thought of their great future, and the attitude conform'd to it — 
especially their great esthetic, moral, scientific future, (of which 
their vulgar material and political present is but as the prepara- 
tory tuning of instruments by an orchestra,) these, as hitherto, 
are still, for me, among my hopes, ambitions. 

" Leaves of Grass," already publish'd, is, in its intentions, the 
song of a great composite democratic individual, male or female. 
And following on and amplifying the same purpose, I sup- 
pose I have in my mind to run through the chants of this vol- 
ume, (if ever completed,) the thread-voice, more or less audible, 



of an aggregated, inseparable, unprecedented, vast, composite, 
electric democratic nationality. 

Purposing, then, to still fill out, from time to time through 
years to come, the following volume, (unless prevented,) I con- 
clude this preface to the first instalment of it, pencil'd in the 
open air, on my fifty-third birth-day, by wafting to you, dear 
reader, whoever you are, (from amid the fresh scent of the grass, 
the pleasant coolness of the forenoon breeze, the lights and 
shades of tree-boughs silently dappling and playing around me, 
and the notes of the cat -bird for undertone and accompaniment,) 
my true good-will and love. W. W. 

Washington, D. C, May 31, 1872. 

PREFACE. 1876, 

to the two-volume Centennial Edition 

of L. of G. and " Two Rivulets." 

At the eleventh hour, under grave illness, I gather up the 
pieces of prose and poetry left over since publishing, a while 
since, my first and main volume, " Leaves of Grass" — pieces, 
here, some new, some old — nearly all of them (sombre as many 
are, making this almost death's book) composed in by-gone at- 
mospheres of perfect health — and preceded by the freshest col- 
lection, the little " Two Rivulets," now send them out, embodied 
in the present melange, partly as my contribution and outpour- 
ing to celebrate, in some sort, the feature of the time, the first 
centennial of our New World nationality — and then as chyle and 
nutriment to that moral, indissoluble union, equally representing 
all, and the mother of many coming centennials. 

And e'en for flush and proof of our America — for reminder, 
just as much, or more, in moods of towering pride and joy, I 
keep my special chants of death and immortality* to stamp the 

* Passage to India. — As in some ancient legend-play, to close the plot 
and the hero's career, there is a farewell gathering on ship's deck and on 
shore, a loosing of hawsers and ties, a spreading of sails to the wind — a start- 
ing out on unknown seas, to fetch up no one knows whither — to return no 
more — and the curtain falls, and there is the end of it — so I have reserv'd 
that poem, with its cluster, to finish and explain much that, without them, 
would not be explain'd, and to take leave, and escape for good, from all that 
has preceded them. (Then probably " Passage to India," and its cluster, are 
but freer vent and fuller expression to what, from the first, and so on through- 

PREFACE, 1876. 281 

coloring-finish of all, present and past. For terminus and tem- 
perer to all, they were originally written ; and that shall be their 
office at the last. 

out, more or less lurks in my writings, underneath every page, every line, 

I am not sure but the last inclosing sublimation of race or poem is, what it 
thinks of death. After the rest has been comprehended and said, even the 
grandest — after those contributions to mightiest nationality, or to sweetest 
song, or to the best personalism, male or female, have been glean'd from the 
rich and varied themes of tangible life, and have been fully accepted and 
sung, and the pervading fact of visible existence, with the duty it devolves, is 
rounded and apparently completed, it still remains to be really completed by 
suffusing through the whole and several, that other pervading invisible fact, 
so large a part, (is it not the largest part?) of life here, combining the rest, 
and furnishing, for person or State, the only permanent and unitary meaning 
to all, even the meanest life, consistently with the dignity of the universe, in 
Time. As from the eligibility to this thought, and the cheerful conquest of 
this fact, flash forth the first distinctive proofs of the soul, so to me, (extend- 
ing it only a little further,) the ultimate Democratic purports, the ethereal and 
spiritual ones, are to concentrate here, and as fixed stars, radiate hence. For, 
in my opinion, it is no less than this idea of immortality, above all other ideas, 
that is to enter into, and vivify, and give crowning religious stamp, to democ- 
racy in the New World. 

It was originally my intention, after chanting in "Leaves of Grass" the 
songs of the body and existence, to then compose a further, equally needed 
volume, based on those convictions of perpetuity and conservation which, en- 
veloping all precedents, make the unseen soul govern absolutely at last. I 
meant, while in a sort continuing the theme of my first chants, to shift the 
slides, and exhibit the problem and paradox of the same ardent and fully ap- 
pointed personality entering the sphere of the resistless gravitation of spiritual 
law, and with cheerful face estimating death, not at all as the cessation, but 
as somehow what I feel it must be, the entrance upon by far the greatest part 
of existence, and something that life is at least as much for, as it is for itself. 
But the full construction of such a work is beyond my powers, and must re- 
main for some bard in the future. The physical and the sensuous, in them- 
selves or in their immediate continuations, retain holds upon me which I think 
are never entirely releas'd; and those holds I have not only not denied, but 
hardly wish'd to weaken. 

Meanwhile, not entirely to give the go-by to my original plan, and far more 
to avoid a mark'd hiatus in it, than to entirely fulfil it, I end my books with 
thoughts, or radiations from thoughts, on death, immortality, and a free en- 
trance into the spiritual world. In those thoughts, in a sort, I make the first 
steps or studies toward the mighty theme, from the point of view necessitated 
by my foregoing poems, and by modern science. In them I also seek to set 
the key-stone to my democracy's enduring arch. I recollate them now, for 
the press, in order to partially occupy and offset days of strange sickness, and 
the heaviest affliction and bereavement of my life; and I fondly please myself 
with the notion of leaving that cluster to you, O unknown reader of the 
future, as " something to remember me by," more especially than all else. 
Written in former days of perfect health, little did I think the pieces had the 
purport that now, under present circumstances, opens to me 

[As I write these lines, May 31, 1875, it is again early summer — again my 



For some reason — not explainable or definite to my own mind, 
yet secretly pleasing and satisfactory to it — I have not hesitated 
to embody in, and run through the volume, two altogether dis- 
tinct veins, or strata — politics for one, and for the other, the 
pensive thought of immortality. Thus, too, the prose and po- 
etic, the dual forms of the present book. The volume, there- 
fore, after its minor episodes, probably divides into these two, at 
first sight far diverse, veins of topic and treatment. Three points, 
in especial, have become very dear to me, and all through I seek 
to make them again and again, in many forms and repetitions, as 
will be seen : i. That the true growth-characteristics of the -de- 
mocracy of the New World are henceforth to radiate in superior 
literary, artistic and religious expressions, far more than in its re- 
publican forms, universal suffrage, and frequent elections, (though 
these are unspeakably important.) 2. That the vital political 
mission of the United States is, to practically solve and settle 
the problem of two sets of rights — the fusion, thorough compati- 
bility and junction of individual State prerogatives, with the in- 
dispensable necessity of centrality and Oneness — the national 
identity power — the sovereign Union, relentless, permanently 
comprising all, and over all, and in that never yielding an inch : 
then 3d. Do we not, amid a general malaria of fogs and vapors, 
our day, unmistakably see two pillars of promise, with grandest, 
indestructible indications — one, that the morbid facts of Ameri- 
can politics and society everywhere are but passing incidents and 
flanges of our unbounded impetus of growth? weeds, annuals, of 
the rank, rich soil — not central, enduring, perennial things ? The 

birth-day — now my fifty-sixth. Amid the outside beauty and freshness, the 
sunlight and verdure of the delightful season, O how different the moral at- 
mosphere amid which I now revise this Volume, from the jocund influence 
surrounding the growth and advent of " Leaves of Grass." I occupy myself, 
arranging these pages for publication, still envelopt in thoughts of the death 
two years since of my dear Mother, the most perfect and magnetic character, 
the rarest combination of practical, moral and spiritual, and the least selfish, 
of all and any I have ever known — and by me O so much the most deeply 
loved — and also under the physical affliction of a tedious attack of paralysis, 
obstinately lingering and keeping its hold upon me, and quite suspending all 
bodily activity and comfort.] 

Under these influences, therefore, I still feel to keep " Passage to India " for 
last words even to this centennial dithyramb. Not as, in antiquity, at highest 
festival of Egypt, the noisome skeleton of death was sent on exhibition to 
the revelers, for zest and shadow to the occasion's joy and light — but as the 
marble statue of the normal Greeks at Elis, suggesting death in the form of a 
beautiful and perfect young man, with closed eyes, leaning on an inverted 
torch — emblem of rest and aspiration after action— of crown and point which 
all lives and poems should steadily have reference to, namely, the justified 
and noble termination of our identity, this grade of it, and outlet-preparation 
to another grade. 

PREFACE, 1876. 283 

other, that all the hitherto experience of the Sates, their first cen- 
tury, has been but preparation, adolescence — and that this Union 
is only now and henceforth, (/. e. since the secession war,) to enter 
on its full democratic career? 

Of the whole, poems and prose, (not attending at all to chro- 
nological order, and with original dates and passing allusions in 
the heat and impression of the hour, left shuffled in, and undis- 
turb'd,) the chants of " Leaves of Grass," my former volume, 
yet serve as the indispensable deep soil, or basis, out of which, 
and out of which only, could come the roots and stems more 
definitely indicated by these later pages. (While that volume 
radiates physiology alone, the present one, though of the like 
origin in the main, more palpably doubtless shows the pathology 
which was pretty sure to come in time from the other.) 

In that former and main volume, composed in the flush of my 
health and strength, from the age of 30 to 50 years, I dwelt on 
birth and life, clothing my ideas in pictures, days, transactions 
of my time, to give them positive place, identity — saturating 
them with that vehemence of pride and audacity of freedom 
necessary to loosen the mind of still-to-be-form'd America from 
the accumulated folds, the superstitions, and all the long, tena- 
cious and stifling anti-democratic authorities of the Asiatic and 
European past — my enclosing purport being to express, above all 
artificial regulation and aid, the eternal bodily composite, cumu- 
lative, natural character of one's self.* 

* Namely, a character, making most of common and normal elements, to 
the superstructure of which not only the precious accumulations of the learn- 
ing and experiences of the Old World, and the settled social and municipal 
necessities and current requirements, so long a-building, shall still faithfully 
contribute, but which at its foundations and carried up thence, and receiving 
its impetus from the democratic spirit, and accepting its gauge in all depart- 
ments from the democratic formulas, shall again directly be vitalized by the 
perennial influences of Nature at first hand, and the old heroic stamina of 
Nature, the strong air of prairie and mountain, the dash of the briny sea, the 
primary antiseptics — of the passions, in all their fullest heat and potency, of 
courage, rankness, amativeness, and of immense pride. Not to lose at all, 
therefore, the benefits of artificial progress and civilization, but to re-occupy 
for Western tenancy the oldest though ever- fresh fields, and reap from them 
the savage and sane nourishment indispensable to a hardy nation, and the ab- 
sence of which, threatening to become worse and worse, is the most serious 
lack and defect to-day of our New World literature. 

Not but what the brawn of "Leaves of Grass" is, I hope, thoroughly 
spiritualized everywhere, for final estimate, but, from the very subjects, the di- 
rect effect is a sense of the life, as it should be, of flesh and blood, and phys 
ical urge, and animalism. While there are other themes, and plenty of ab- 
stract thoughts and poems in the volume — while I have put in it passing and 
rapid but actual glimpses of the great struggle between the nation and the 
slave-power, (1861-65,) as the fierce and bloody panorama of that contest 


Estimating the American Union as so far, and for some time to 
come, in its yet formative condition, I bequeath poems and essays 

unroll'd itself: while the whole book, indeed, revolves around that four years' 
war, which, as I was in the midst of it, becomes, in " Drum-Taps," pivotal 
to the rest entire — and here and there, before and afterward, not a few epi- 
sodes and speculations — that — namely, to make a type-portrait for living, ac- 
tive, worldly, healthy personality, objective as well as subjective, joyful and 
potent, and modern and free, distinctively for the use of the United States, 
male and female, through the long future — has been, I say, my general ob- 
ject. (Probably, indeed, the whole of these varied songs, and all my wri- 
tings, both volumes, only ring changes in some sort, on the ejaculation, How 
vast, how eligible, how joyful, how real, is a human being, himself or her- 

Though from no definite plan at the time, I see now that I have uncon- 
sciously sought, by indirections at least as much as directions, to express the 
whirls and rapid growth and intensity of the United States, the prevailing 
tendency and events of the Nineteenth century, and largely the spirit of the 
whole current world, my time ; for I feel that I have partaken of that spirit, 
as I have been deeply interested in all those events, the closing of long- 
stretch'd eras and ages, and, illustrated in the history of the United States, the 
opening of larger ones. (The death of President Lincoln, for instance, fitly, 
historically closes, in the civilization of feudalism, many old influences — 
drops on them, suddenly, a vast, gloomy, as it were, separating curtain.) 

Since I have been ill, (1873-74-75,) mostly without serious pain, and with 
plenty of time and frequent inclination to judge my poems, (never composed 
with eye on the book-market, nor for fame, nor for any pecuniary profit,) I 
have felt temporary depression more than once, for fear that in " Leaves of 
Grass" the moral parts were not sufficiently pronounc'd. But in my clearest 
and calmest moods I have realized that as those " Leaves," all and several, 
surely prepare the way for, and necessitate morals, and are adjusted to them, 
just the same as Nature does and is, they are what, consistently with my plan, 
they must and probably should be. (In a certain sense, while the Moral is 
the purport and last intelligence of all Nature, there is absolutely nothing of 
the moral in the works, or laws, or shows of Nature. Those only lead inevi- 
tably to it — begin and necessitate it.) 

Then I meant " Leaves of Grass," as published, to be the Poem of average 
Identity, (of yours, whoever you are, now reading these lines.) A man is not 
greatest as victor in war, nor inventor or explorer, nor even in science, or in his 
intellectual or artistic capacity, or exemplar in some vast benevolence. To 
the highest democratic view, man is most acceptable in living well the prac- 
tical life and lot which happens to him as ordinary farmer, sea-farer, mechanic, 
clerk, laborer, or driver — upon and from which position as a central basis or 
pedestal, while performing its labors, and his duties as citizen, son, husband, 
father and employ'd person, he preserves his physique, ascends, developing, 
radiating himself in other regions — and especially where and when, (greatest 
of all, and nobler than the proudest mere genius or magnate in any field,) he 
fully realizes the conscience, the spiritual, the divine faculty, cultivated well, 
exemplified in all his deeds and words, through life, uncompromising to the 

en( j a flight loftier than any of Homer's or Shakspere's — broader than all 

poems and bibles — namely, Nature's own, and in the midst of it, Yourself, 
your own Identity, body and soul. (All serves, helps — but in the centre of 
all, absorbing all, giving, for your purpose, the only meaning and vitality to 
all, master or mistress of all, under the law, stands Yourself.) To sing the 

PREFACE, 1876. 285 

as nutriment and influences to help truly assimilate and harden, 
and especially to furnish something toward what the States most 
need of all, and which seems to me yet quite unsupplied in lit- 
erature, namely, to show them, or begin to show them, themselves 
distinctively, and what they are for. For though perhaps the 
main points of all ages and nations are points of resemblance, 
and, even while granting evolution, are substantially the same, 
there are some vital things in which this Republic, as to its indi- 
vidualities, and as a compacted Nation, is to specially stand forth, 
and culminate modern humanity. And these are the very things 
it least morally and mentally knows — (though, curiously enough, 
it is at the same time faithfully acting upon them.) 

I count with such absolute certainty on the great future of the 
United States — different from, though founded on, the past — 
that I have always invoked that future, and surrounded myself 
with it, before or while singing my songs. (As ever, all tends to 
followings — America, too, is a prophecy. What, even of the best 
and most successful, would be justified by itself alone? by the 
present, or the material ostent alone ? Of men or States, few 
realize how much they live in the future. That, rising like pin- 
nacles, gives its main significance to all You and I are doing to- 
day. Without it, there were little meaning in lands or poems — 

Song of that law of average Identity, and of Yourself, consistently with the 
divine law of the universal, is a main intention of those " Leaves." 

Something more may be added — for, while I am about it, I would make a 
full confession. I also sent out " Leaves of Grass " to arouse and set flowing 
in men's and women's hearts, young and old, endless streams of living, pulsa- 
ting love and friendship, directly from them to myself, now and ever. To 
this terrible, irrepressible yearning, (surely more or less down underneath in 
most human souls) — this never-satisfied appetite for sympathy, and this 
boundless offering of sympathy — this universal democratic comradeship — this 
old, eternal, yet ever-new interchange of adhesiveness, so fitly emblematic of 
America — I have given in that book, undisguisedly, declaredly, the openest 
expression. Besides, important as they are in my purpose as emotional ex- 
pressions for humanity, the special meaning of the "Calamus" cluster of 
" Leaves of Grass," (and more or less running through the book, and crop- 
ping out in " Drum-Taps,") mainly resides in its political significance. In my 
opinion, it is by a fervent, accepted development of comradeship, the beauti- 
ful and sane affection of man for man, latent in all the young fellows, north 
and south, east and west — it is by this, I say, and by what goes directly and 
indirectly along with it, that the United States of the future, (I cannot too 
often repeat,) are to be most effectually welded together, intercalated, anneal'd 
into a living union. 

Then, for enclosing clue of all, it is imperatively and ever to be borne in 
mind that " Leaves of Grass " entire is not to be construed as an intellectual 
or scholastic effort or poem mainly, but more as a radical utterance out of 
the Emotions and the Physique — an utterance adjusted to, perhaps born of, 
Democracy and the Modern — in its very nature regardless of the old conven- 
tions, and, under the great laws, following only its own impulses. 


little purport in human lives. All ages, all Nations and States, 
have been such prophecies. But where any former ones with 
prophecy so broad, so clear, as our times, our lands — as those of 
the West ?) 

Without being a scientist, I have thoroughly adopted the con- 
clusions of the great savans and experimentalists of our time, 
and of the last hundred years, and they have interiorly tinged 
the chyle of all my verse, for purposes beyond. Following the 
modern spirit, the real poems of the present, ever solidifying and 
expanding into the future, must vocalize the vastness and splen- 
dor and reality with which scientism has invested man and the 
universe, (all that is called creation,) and must henceforth launch 
humanity into new orbits, consonant with that vastness, splendor, 
and reality, (unknown to the old poems,) like new systems of 
orbs, balanced upon themselves, revolving in limitless space, more 
subtle than the stars. Poetry, so largely hitherto and even at 
present wedded to children's tales, and to mere amorousness, 
upholstery and superficial rhyme, will have to accept, and, while 
not denying the past, nor the themes of the past, will be revivified 
by this tremendous innovation, the kosmic spirit, which must 
henceforth, in my opinion, be the background and underlying 
impetus, more or less visible, of all first-class songs. 

Only, (for me, at any rate, in all my prose and poetry,) joy- 
fully accepting modern science, and loyally following it without 
the slightest hesitation, there remains ever recognized still a 
higher flight, a higher fact, the eternal soul of man, (of all else 
too,) the spiritual, the religious — which it is to be the greatest 
office of scientism, in my opinion, and of future poetry also, to 
free from fables, crudities and superstitions, and launch forth in 
renew'd faith and scope a hundred fold. To me, the worlds of 
religiousness, of the conception of the divine, and of the ideal, 
though mainly latent, are just as absolute in humanity and the 
uriiverse as the world of chemistry, or anything in the objective 
worlds. To me 

The prophet and the bard, 
Shall yet maintain themselves — in higher circles yet, 
Shall mediate to the modern, to democracy — interpret yet to them, 

God and eidolons. 

To me, the crown of savantism is to be, that it surely opens 
the way for a more splendid theology, and for ampler and diviner 
songs. No year, nor even century, will settle this. There is a 
phase of the real, lurking behind the real, which it is all for. 
There is also in the intellect of man, in time, far in prospective 
recesses, a judgment, a last appellate court, which will settle it. 

PREFACE, 1876. 287 

In certain parts in these flights, or attempting to depict or sug- 
gest them, I have not been afraid of the charge of obscurity, in 
either of my two volumes — because human thought, poetry or 
melody, must leave dim escapes and outlets— ^must possess a cer- 
tain fluid, aerial character, akin to space itself, obscure to those 
of little or no imagination, but indispensable to the highest pur- 
poses. Poetic style, when address'd to the soul, is less definite 
form, outline, sculpture, and becomes vista, music, half-tints, and 
even less than half-tints. True, it may be architecture ; but again 
it may be the forest wild-wood, or the best effect thereof, at twi- 
light, the waving oaks and cedars in the wind, and the impalpa- 
ble odor. 

Finally, as I have lived in fresh lands, inchoate, and in a revo- 
lutionary age, future-founding, I have felt to identify the points 
of that age, these lands, in my recitatives, altogether in my own 
way. Thus my form has strictly grown from my purports and 
facts, and is the analogy of them. Within my time the United 
States have emerged from nebulous vagueness and suspense, to full 
orbic, (though varied,) decision — have done the deeds and 
achiev'd the triumphs of half a score of centuries — and are 
henceforth to enter upon their real history — the way being 
now, (1. e. since the result of the Secession War,) clear'd of death- 
threatening impedimenta, and the free areas around and ahead 
of us assured and certain, which were not so before — (the past 
century being but preparations, trial voyages and experiments of 
the ship, before her starting out upon deep water.) 

In estimating my volumes, the world's current times and deeds, 
and their spirit, must be first profoundly estimated. Out of the 
hundred years just ending, (1776-1876,) with their genesis of in- 
evitable wilful events, and new experiments and introductions, 
and many unprecedented things of war and peace, (to be realized 
better, perhaps only realized, at the remove of a century hence;) 
out of that stretch of time, and especially out of the immediately 
preceding twenty-five years, (1850-75,) with all their rapid 
changes, innovations, and audacious movements — and bearing 
their own inevitable wilful birth-marks — the experiments of my 
poems too have found genesis. 

W. W. 



Strange as it may seem, the topmost proof of a race is its own 
born poetry. The presence of that, or the absence, each tells 
its story. As the flowering rose or lily, as the ripen'd fruit to a 
tree, the apple or the peach, no matter how fine the trunk, or 
copious or rich the branches and foliage, here waits sine qua non 
at last. The stamp of entire and finish'd greatness to any nation, 
to the American Republic among the rest, must be sternly with- 
held till it has put what it stands for in the blossom of original, 
first-class poems. No imitations will do. 

And though no esthetik worthy the present condition or future 
certainties of the New World seems to have been outlined in 
men's minds, or has been generally called for, or thought needed, 
I am clear that until the United States have just such definite 
and native expressers in the highest artistic fields, their mere po- 
litical, geographical, wealth-forming, and even intellectual emi- 
nence, however astonishing and predominant, will constitute but 
a more and more expanded and well-appointed body, and per- 
haps brain, with little or no soul. Sugar-coat the grim truth as 
we may, and ward off with outward plausible words, denials, ex- 
planations, to the mental inward perception of the land this 
blank is plain ; a barren void exists. For the meanings and ma- 
turer purposes of these States are not the constructing of a new 
world of politics merely, and physical comforts for the million, 
but even more determinedly, in range with science and the 
modern, of a new world of democratic sociology and imagina- 
tive literature. If the latter were not establish'd for the States, 
to form their only permanent tie and hold, the first-named would 
be of little avail. 

With the poems of a first-class land are twined, as weft with 
warp, its types of personal character, of individuality, peculiar, 
native, its own physiognomy, man's and woman's, its own shapes, 
forms, and manners, fully justified under the eternal laws of all 
forms, all manners, all times. The hour has come for democracy 
in America to inaugurate itself in the two directions specified — 
autochthonic poems and personalities — born expressers of itself, 
its spirit alone, to radiate in subtle ways, not only in art, but the 
practical and familiar, in the transactions between employers and 
employ'd persons, in business and wages, and sternly in the army 
and navy, and revolutionizing them. I find nowhere a scope pro- 
found enough, and radical and objective enough, either for ag- 

P OE TR V TO-DA Y IN A ME RICA, &v. 2 89 

gregates or individuals. The thought and identity of a poetry 
in America to fill, and worthily fill, the great void, and enhance 
these aims, electrifying all and several, involves the essence and 
integral facts, real and spiritual, of the whole land, the whole 
body. What the great sympathetic is to the congeries of bones, 
joints, heart, fluids, nervous system and vitality, constituting, 
launching forth in time and space a human being — aye, an im- 
mortal soul — such relation, and no less, holds true poetry to the 
single personality, or to the nation. 

Here our thirty-eight States stand to day, the children of past 
precedents, and, young as they are, heirs of a very old estate. 
One or two points we will consider, out of the myriads present- 
ing themselves. The feudalism of the British Islands, illustrated 
by Shakspere- — and by his legitimate followers, Walter Scott and 
Alfred Tennyson — with all its tyrannies, superstitions, evils, had 
most superb and heroic permeating veins, poems, manners; even 
its errors fascinating. It almost seems as if only that feudalism 
in Europe, like slavery in our own South, could outcrop types of 
tallest, noblest personal character yet — strength and devotion and 
love better than elsewhere — invincible courage, generosity, aspi- 
ration, the spines of all. Here is where Shakspere and the 
others I have named perform a service incalculably precious to 
our America. Politics, literature, and everything else, centers at 
last in perfect personnel, (as democracy is to find the same as the 
rest ;) and here feudalism is unrival'd — here the rich and highest- 
rising lessons it bequeaths us — a mass of foreign nutriment, which 
we are to work over, and popularize and enlarge, and present 
again in our own growths. 

Still there are pretty grave and anxious drawbacks, jeopardies, 
fears. Let us give some reflections on the subject, a little fluc- 
tuating, but starting from one central thought, and returning 
there again. Two or three curious results may plow up. As in 
the astronomical laws, the very power that would seem most 
deadly and destructive turns out to be latently conservative of 
longest, vastest future births and lives. We will for once briefly 
examine the just-named authors solely from a Western point of 
view. It may be, indeed, that we shall use the sun of English 
literature, and the brightest current stars of his system, mainly as 
pegs to hang some cogitations on, for home inspection. 

As depicter and dramatist of the passions at their stormiest 
outstretch, though ranking high, Shakspere (spanning the arch 
wide enough) is equal'd by several, and excell'd by the best old 
Greeks, (as ^Eschylus.) But in portraying mediaeval European 
lords and barons, the arrogant port, so dear to the inmost human 




heart, (pride ! pride ! dearest, perhaps, of all — touching us, too, 
of the States closest of all— closer than love,) he stands alone, 
and I do not wonder he so witches the world. 

From first to last, also, Walter Scott and Tennyson, like Shak- 
spere, exhale that principle of caste which we Americans have 
come on earth to destroy. Jefferson's verdict on the Waverley 
novels was that they turn'd and condens'd brilliant but entirely 
false lights and glamours over the lords, ladies, and aristocratic 
institutes of Europe, with all their measureless infamies, and then 
left the bulk of the suffering, down-trodden people contemptu- 
ously in the shade. Without stopping to answer this hornet- 
stinging criticism, or to repay any part of the debt of thanks I 
owe, in common with every American, to the noblest, healthiest, 
cheeriest romancer that ever lived, I pass on to Tennyson, his 

Poetry here of a very high (perhaps the highest) order of ver- 
bal melody, exquisitely clean and pure, and almost always per- 
fumed, like the tuberose, to an extreme of sweetness — sometimes 
not, however, but even then a camellia of the hot-house, never a 
common flower — the verse of inside elegance and high-life; and 
yet preserving amid all its super-delicatesse a smack of outdoors 
and outdoor folk. The old Norman lordhood quality here, too, 
cross' d. with that Saxon fiber from which twain the best current 
stock of England springs-*-poetry that revels above all things in 
traditions of knights and chivalry, and deeds of derring-do. The 
odor of English social life in its highest range — a melancholy, 
affectionate, very manly, but dainty breed — pervading the pages 
like an invisible scent ; the idleness, the traditions, the manner- 
isms, the stately ennui ; the yearning of love, like a spinal mar- 
row, inside of all ; the costumes, brocade and satin ; the old 
houses and furniture — solid oak, no mere veneering — the moldy 
secrets everywhere ; the verdure, the ivy on the walls, the moat, 
the English landscape outside, the buzzing fly in the sun inside 
the window pane. Never one democratic page ; nay, not a line, 
not a word; never free and naive poetry, but involv'd, labor'd, 
quite sophisticated — even when the theme is ever so simple or 
rustic, (a shell, a bit of sedge, the commonest love-passage be- 
tween a lad and lass,) the handling of the rhyme all showing the 
scholar and conventional gentleman ; showing the laureate, too, 
the attache of the throne, and most excellent, too ; nothing better 
through the volumes than the dedication "to the Queen " at the 
beginning, and the other fine dedication, u these to his memory" 
(Prince Albert's,) preceding "Idylls of the King." 

Such for an off-hand summary of the mighty three that now, 
by the women, men, and young folk of the fifty millions given 


these States by their lale census, have been and are more read 
than all others put together. 

We hear it said, both of Tennyson and another current lead- 
ing literary illustrator of Great Britain, Carlyle — as of Victor 
Hugo in France — that not one of them is personally friendly or 
admirant toward America; indeed, quite the reverse. N^importe. 
That they (and more good minds than theirs) cannot span the 
vast revolutionary arch thrown by the United States over the 
centuries, fix'd in the present, launch'd to the endless future ; that 
they cannot stomach the high-life-below-stairs coloring all our 
poetic and genteel social status so far — the measureless vicious- 
ness of the great radical Republic, with its ruffianly nominations 
and elections ; its loud, ill-pitch'd voice, utterly regardless 
whether the verb agrees with the nominative ; its fights, errors, 
eructations, repulsions, dishonesties, audacities ; those fearful 
and varied and long-continued storm and stress stages (so of- 
fensive to the well-regulated college-bred mind) wherewith Na- 
ture, history, and time block out nationalities more powerful than 
the past, and to upturn it and press on to the future ; — that they 
cannot understand and fathom all this, I say, is it to be wonder'd 
at ? Fortunately, the gestation of our thirty-eight empires (and 
plenty more to come) proceeds on its course, on scales of area 
and velocity immense and absolute as the globe, and, like the 
globe itself, quite oblivious even of great poets and thinkers. 
But we can by no means afford to be oblivious of them. 

The same of feudalism, its castles, courts, etiquettes, person- 
alities. However they, or the spirits of them hovering in the air, 
might scowl and glower at such removes as current Kansas or 
Kentucky life and forms, the latter may by no means repudiate 
or leave out the former. Allowing all the evil that it did, we get, 
here and to-day, a balance of good out of its reminiscence almost 
beyond price. 

Am I content, then, that the general interior chyle of our re- 
public should be supplied and nourish' d by wholesale from for- 
eign and antagonistic sources such as these? Let me answer that 
question briefly: 

Years ago I thought Americans ought to strike out separate, and 
have expressions of their own in highest literature. I think so still, 
and more decidedly than ever. But those convictions are now 
strongly temper'd by some additional points, (perhaps the results 
of advancing age, or the reflections of invalidism.) I see that 
this world of the West, as part of 'all, fuses inseparably with the 
East, and with all, as time does — the ever new, yet old, old hu- 
man race — "the same subject continued," as the novels of our 


grandfathers had it for chapter-heads. If we are not to hospitably 
receive and complete the inaugurations of the old civilizations, 
and change their small scale to the largest, broadest scale, what 
on earth are we for? 

The currents of practical business in America, the rude, coarse, 
tussling facts of our lives, and all their daily experiences, need just 
the precipitation and tincture of this entirely different fancy 
world of lulling, contrasting, even feudalistic, anti-republican 
poetry and romance. On the enormous outgrowth of our un- 
loos'd individualities, and the rank self-assertion of humanity 
here, may well fall these grace-persuading, recherche influences. 
We first require that individuals and communities shall be free; 
then surely comes a time when it is requisite that they shall not 
be too free. Although to such results in the future I look mainly 
for a great poetry native to us, these importations till then will 
have to be accepted, such as they are, and thankful they are no 
worse. The inmost spiritual currents of the present time curi- 
ously revenge and check their own compell'd tendency to democ- 
racy, and absorption in it, by mark'd leanings to the past — by 
reminiscences in poems, plots, operas, novels, to a far-off, con- 
trary, deceased world, as if they dreaded the great vulgar gulf 
tides of to-day. Then what has been fifty centuries growing, 
working in, and accepted as crowns and apices for our kind, is 
not going to be pulled down and discarded in a hurry. 

It is, perhaps, time we paid our respects directly to the honor- 
able party, the real object of these preambles. But we must make 
reconnaissance a little further still. Not the least part of our 
lesson were to realize the curiosity and interest of friendly foreign 
experts,* and how our situation looks to them. " American 
"poetry," says the London " Times, "f "is the poetry of apt pu- 
" pils, but it is afflicted from first to last with a fatal want of raci- 
" ness. Bryant has been long passed as a poet by Professor 
" Longfellow ; but in Longfellow, with all his scholarly grace and 
" tender feeling, the defect is more apparent than it was in Bry- 
"ant. Mr. Lowell can overflow with American humor when 

* A few years ago I saw the question, " Has America produced any great 
poem ?" announced as prize-subject for the competition of some university in 
Northern Europe. I saw the item in a foreign paper and made a note of it ; 
but being taken down with paralysis, and prostrated* for a long season, the 
matter slipp'd away, and I have never been able since to get hold of any essay 
presented for the prize, or report of the discussion, nor to learn for certain 
whether there was any essay or discussion, nor can I now remember the place. 
It may have been Upsala, or possibly Heidelberg. Perhaps some German or 
Scandinavian can give particulars. I think it was in 1872. 

f In a long and, prominent editorial, at the time, on the death of William 
Cullen Bryant, 

P0E7R Y TO- DA Y IN AMERICA, &c. 293 

"politics inspire his muse; but in the realm of pure poetry he 
"is no more American than a Newdigate prize-man. Joaquin 
" Miller's verse has fluency and movement and harmony, but as 
" for the thought, his songs of the sierras might as well have been 
"written in Holland." 

Unless in a certain very slight contingency, the "Times" says: 
"American verse, from its earliest to its latest stages, seems an 
"exotic, with an exuberance of gorgeous blossom, but no prin- 
" ciple of reproduction. That is the very note and test of its in- 
" herent want. Great poets are tortured and massacred by having 
"their flowers of fancy gathered and gummed down in thzhortus 
11 siccus of an anthology. American poets show better in an an- 
" thology than in the collected volumes of their works. Like 
" their audience they have been unable to resist the attraction of 
" the vast orbit of English literature. They may talk of the pri- 
" meval forest, but it would generally be very hard from internal 
"evidence to detect that they were writing on the banks of the 

" Hudson rather than on those of the Thames In fact, they 

"have caught the English tone and air and mood only too faith- 
" fully, and are accepted by the superficially cultivated English 
" intelligence as readily as if they were English born. Americans 
"themselves confess to a certain disappointment that a literary 
" curiosity and intelligence so diffused [as in the United States] 
" have not taken up English literature at the point at which Am- 
"erica has received it, and carried it forward and developed it 
" with an independent energy. But like reader like poet. Both 
" show the effects of having come into an estate they have not 
" earned. A nation of readers has required of its poets a diction 
" and symmetry of form equal to that of an old literature like 
" that of Great Britain, which is also theirs. No ruggedness, 
"however racy, would be tolerated by circles which, however 
"superficial their culture, read Byron and Tennyson." 

The English critic, though a gentleman and a scholar, and 
friendly withal, is evidently not altogether satisfied, (perhaps he 
is jealous,) and winds up by saying: "For the English language 
" to have been enriched with a national poetry which was not 
"English but American, would have been a treasure beyond 
"price." With which, as whet and foil, we shall proceed to ven- 
tilate more definitely certain no doubt willful opinions. 

Leaving unnoticed at present the great masterpieces of the an- 
tique, or anything from the middle ages, the prevailing flow of 
poetry for the last fifty or eighty years, and now at its height, has 
been and is (like the music) an expression of mere surface melody, 
within narrow limits, and yet, to give it its due, perfectly satisfy- 
ing to the demands of the ear, of wondrous charm, of smooth 



and easy delivery, and the triumph of technical art. Above all 
things it is fractional and select. It shrinks with aversion from the 
sturdy, the universal, and the democratic. 

The poetry of the future, (a phrase open to sharp criticism, and 
not satisfactory to me, but significant, and I will use it) — the 
poetry of the future aims at the free expression of emotion, 
(which means far, far more than appears at first,) and to arouse 
and initiate, more than to define or finish. Like all modern ten- 
dencies, it has direct or indirect reference continually to the 
reader, to you or me, to the central identity of everything, the 
mighty Ego. (Byron's was a vehement dash, with plenty of 
impatient democracy, but lurid and introverted amid all its 
magnetism ; not at all the fitting, lasting song of a grand, secure, 
free, sunny race.) It is more akin, likewise, to outside life and 
landscape, (returning mainly to the antique feeling,) real sun and 
gale, and woods and shores — to the elements themselves — not 
sitting at ease in parlor or library listening to a good tale of 
them, told in good rhyme. Character, a feature far above style 
or polish — a feature not absent at any time, but now first brought 
to the fore — gives predominant stamp to advancing poetry. Its 
born sister, music, already responds to the same influences. " The 
" music of the present, Wagner's, Gounod's, even the later Verdi's, 
" all tends toward this free expression of poetic emotion, and de- 
" mands a vocalism totally unlike that required for Rossini's splen- 
" did roulades, or Bellini's suave melodies." 

Is there not even now, indeed, an evolution, a departure from 
the masters? Venerable and unsurpassable after their kind as 
are the old works, and always unspeakably precious as studies, 
(for Americans more than any other people, ) is it too much to 
say that by the shifted combinations of the modern mind the 
whole underlying theory of first-class verse has changed? " For- 
" merly, during the period term'd classic," says Sainte-Beuve, 
" when literature was govern'd by recognized rules, he was con- 
" sider'd the best poet who had composed the most perfect 
" work, the most beautiful poem, the most intelligible, the most 
" agreeable to read, the most complete in every respect, — the 
" ^neid, the Gerusalemme, a fine tragedy. To-day, something 
" else is wanted. For us the greatest poet is he who in his works 
" most stimulates the reader's imagination and reflection, who 
"■ excites him the most himself to poetize. The greatest poet is 
" not he who has done the best ; it is he who suggests the most ; 
" he, not all of whose meaning is at first obvious, and who leaves 
" you much to desire, to explain, to study, much to complete in 
" your turn." 

The fatal defects our American singers labor under are subor- 


dination of spirit, an absence of the concrete and of real pa- 
triotism, and in excess that modern aesthetic contagion a queer 
friend of mine calls the beauty disease. " The immoderate taste 
for beauty and art," says Charles Baudelaire, " leads men into 
monstrous excesses. In minds imbued with a frantic greed for 
the beautiful, all the balances of truth and justice disappear. 
There is a lust, a disease of the art faculties, which eats up the 
moral like a cancer." 

Of course, by our plentiful verse-writers there is plenty of ser- 
vice perform'd, of a kind. Nor need we go far for a tally. We 
see, in every polite circle, a class of accomplished, good-natured 
persons, ("society," in fact, could not get on without them,) 
fully eligible for certain problems, times, and duties — to mix egg- 
nog, to mend the broken spectacles, to decide whether the stew'd 
eels shall precede the sherry or the sherry the stew'd eels, to eke 
out Mrs. A. B.'s parlor-tableaux with monk, Jew, lover, Puck, 
Prospero, Caliban, or what not, and to generally contribute and 
gracefully adapt their flexibilities and talents, in those ranges, to 
the world's service. But for real crises, great needs and pulls, 
moral or physical, they might as well have never been born. 

Or the accepted notion of a poet would appear to be a sort of 
male odalisque, singing or piano-playing a kind of spiced ideas, 
second-hand reminiscenes, or toying late hours at entertainments, 
in rooms stifling with fashionable scent. I think I haven't seen 
a new-publish'd, healthy, bracing, simple lyric in ten years. Not 
long ago, there were verses in each of three fresh monthlies, from 
leading authors, and in every one the whole central motif {perfectly 
serious) was the melancholiness of a marriageable young woman 
who didn't get a rich husband, but a poor one ! 

Besides its tonic and al fresco physiology, relieving such as 
this, the poetry of the future will take on character in a more 
important respect. Science, having extirpated the old stork- 
fables and superstitions, is clearing a field for verse, for all the 
arts, and even for romance, a hundred-fold ampler and more 
wonderful, with the new principles behind. Republicanism ad- 
vances over, the whole world. Liberty, with Law by her side, 
will one day be paramount — will at any rate be the central idea. 
Then only — for all the splendor and beauty of what has been, or 
the polish of what is — then only will the true poets appear, and 
the true poems. Not the satin and patchouly of to-day, not the 
glorification of the butcheries and wars of the past, nor any fight 
between Deity on one side and somebody else on the other — not 
Milton, not even Shakspere's plays, grand as they are. Entirely 
different and hitherto unknown classes of men, being authorita- 
tively called for in imaginative literature, will certainly appear. 


What is hitherto most lacking, perhaps most absolutely indicates 
the future. Democracy has been hurried on through time by 
measureless tides and winds, resistless as the revolution of the 
globe, and as far-reaching and rapid. But in the highest walks 
of art it has not yet had a single representative worthy of it any- 
where upon the earth. 

Never had real bard a task more fit for sublime ardor and 
genius than to sing worthily the songs these States have already 
indicated. Their origin, Washington, ' 76, the picturesqueness of 
old times, the war of 181 2 and the sea-fights; the incredible 
rapidity of movement and breadth of area — to fuse and compact 
the South and North, the East and West, to express the native 
forms, situations, scenes, from Montauk to California, and from 
the Saguenay to the Rio Grande — the working out on such gi- 
gantic scales, and with such a swift and mighty play of changing 
light and shade, of the great problems of man and freedom, — 
how far ahead of the stereotyped plots, or gem-cutting, or tales 
of love, or wars of mere ambition ! Our history is so full of 
spinal, modern, germinal subjects — one above all. What the an- 
cient siege of Ilium, and the puissance of Hector's and Agamem- 
non's warriors proved to Hellenic art and literature, and all art 
and literature since, may prove the war of attempted secession 
of 1 86 1-' 65 to the future aesthetics, drama, romance, poems of 
the United States. 

Nor could utility itself provide anything more practically ser- 
viceable to the hundred millions who, a couple of generations 
hence, will inhabit within the limits just named, than the per- 
meation of a sane, sweet, autochthonous national poetry — must I 
say of a kind that does not now exist? but which, I fully believe, 
will in time be supplied on scales as free as Nature's elements. 
(It is acknowledged that we of the States are the most material- 
istic and money-making people ever known. My own theory, 
while fully accepting this, is that we are the most emotional, 
spiritualistic, and poetry-loving people also.) 

Infinite are the new and orbic traits waiting to be launch'd 
forth in the firmament that is, and is to be, America. Lately, I 
have wonder'd whether the last meaning of this cluster of thirty- 
eight States is not only practical fraternity among themselves — 
the only real union, (much nearer its accomplishment, too, than 
appears on the surface) — but for fraternity over the whole globe 
— that dazzling, pensive dream of ages ! Indeed, the peculiar 
glory of our lands, I have come to see, or expect to see, not in 
their geographical or republican greatness, nor wealth or products, 
nor military or naval power, nor special, eminent names in any 


department, to shine with, or outshine, foreign special names in 
similar departments, — but more and more in a vaster, saner, more 
surrounding Comradeship, uniting closer and closer not only the 
American States, but all nations, and all humanity. That, O 
poets! is not that a theme worth chanting, striving for? Why 
not fix your verses henceforth to the gauge of the round globe? 
the whole race? Perhaps the most illustrious culmination of the 
modern may thus prove to be a signal growth of joyous, more ex- 
alted bards of adhesiveness, identically one in soul, but contrib- 
uted by every nation, each after its distinctive kind. Let us, au- 
dacious, start it. Let the diplomats, as ever, still deeply plan, 
seeking advantages, proposing treaties between governments, and 
to bind them, on paper : what I seek is different, simpler. I 
would inaugurate from America, for this purpose, new formulas 
— international poems. I have thought that the invisible root 
out of which the poetry deepest in, and dearest to, humanity 
grows, is Friendship. I have thought that both in patriotism 
and song (even amid their grandest shows past) we have adhered 
too long to petty limits, and that the time has come to enfold 
the world. 

Not only is the human and artificial world we have establish'd 
in the West a radical departure from anything hitherto known — 
not only men and politics, and all that goes with them — but Na- 
ture itself, in the main sense, its construction, is different. The 
same old font of type, of course, but set up to a text never com- 
posed or issued before. For Nature consists not only in itself, 
objectively, but at least just as much in its subjective reflection 
from the person, spirit, age, looking at it, in the midst of it, and 
absorbing it — faithfully sends back the characteristic beliefs of 
the time or individual — takes, and readily gives again, the phys- 
iognomy of any nation or literature — falls like a great elastic 
veil on a face, or like the molding plaster on a statue. 

What is Nature ? What were the elements, the invisible back- 
grounds and eidolons of it, to Homer's heroes, voyagers, gods? 
What all through the wanderings of Virgil's ^neas? Then to 
Shakspere's characters — Hamlet, Lear, the English-Norman kings, 
the Romans ? What was Nature to Rousseau, to Voltaire, to the 
German Goethe in his little classical court gardens? In those 
presentments in Tennyson (see the " Idyls of the King " — what 
sumptuous, perfumed, arras-and-gold Nature, inimitably described, 
better than any, fit for princes and knights and peerless ladies — 
wrathful or peaceful, just the same — Vivien and Merlin in their 
strange dalliance, or the death-float of Elaine, or Geraint and the 
long journey of his disgraced Enid and himself through the 
wood, and the wife ail day driving the horses,) as in all the great 


imported art-works, treatises, systems, from Lucretius down, there 
is a constantly lurking, often pervading something, that will have 
to be eliminated, as not only unsuited to modern democracy and 
science in America, but insulting to them, and disproved by 

Still, the rule and demesne of poetry will always be not the 
exterior, but interior ; not the macrocosm, but microcosm ; not 
Nature, but Man. I haven't said anything about the imperative 
need of a race of giant bards in the future, to hold up high to 
eyes of land and race the eternal antiseptic models, and to 
dauntlessly confront greed, injustice, and all forms of that wili- 
ness and tyranny whose roots never die — (my opinion is, that 
after all the rest is advanced, that is what first-class poets are for; 
as, to their days and occasions, the Hebrew lyrists, Roman Juve- 
nal, and doubtless the old singers of India, and the British Druids) — 
to counteract dangers, immensest ones, already looming in Amer- 
ica — measureless corruption in politics — what we call religion, a 
mere mask of wax or lace ; — for eiiscnible, that most cankerous, 
offensive of all earth's shows — a vast and varied community, 
prosperous and fat with wealth of money and products and busi- 
ness ventures — plenty of mere intellectuality too — and then ut- 
terly without the sound, prevailing, moral and aesthetic health- 
action beyond all the money and mere intellect of the world. 

Is it a dream of mine that, in times to come, west, south, east, 
north, will silently, surely arise a race of such poets, varied, yet 
one in soul — nor only poets, and of the best, but newer, larger 
prophets — larger than Judea's, and more passionate — to meet 
and penetrate those woes, as shafts of light the darkness? 

As I write, the last fifth of the nineteenth century is enter'd 
upon, and will soon be waning. Now, and for a long time to 
come, what the United States most need, to give purport, defi- 
niteness, reason why, to their unprecedented material wealth, in- 
dustrial products, education by rote merely, great populousness 
and intellectual activity, is the central, spinal reality, (or even 
the idea of it,) of such a democratic band of native-born-and- 
bred teachers, artists, litterateurs, tolerant and receptive of im- 
portations, but entirely adjusted to the West, to ourselves, to our 
own days, combinations, differences, superiorities. Indeed, lam 
fond of thinking that the whole series of concrete and political 

* Whatever may be said of the few principal poems — or their best pas- 
sages — it is certain that the overwhelming mass of poetic works, as now ab- 
sorb'd into human character, exerts a certain constipating, repressing, in-door, 
and artificial influence, impossible to elude — seldom or never that freeing, di- 
lating, joyous one, with which uncramp'd Nature works on every individual 
without exception. 


triumphs of the Republic are mainly as bases and preparations 
for half a dozen future poets, ideal personalities, referring not to 
a special class, but to the entire people, four or five millions of 
square miles. 

Long, long are the processes of the development of a nation- 
ality. Only to the rapt vision does the seen become the prophecy 
of the unseen.* Democracy, so far attending only to the real, is 

* Is there not such a thing as the philosophy of American history and poli- 
tics ? And if so, what is it ? . . . Wise men say there are two sets of wills 
to nations and to persons — one set that acts and works from explainable mo- 
tives — from teaching, intelligence, judgment, circumstance, caprice, emulation, 
greed, &c.— and then another set, perhaps deep, hidden, unsuspected, yet often 
more potent than the first, refusing to be argued with, rising*as it were out of 
abysses, rcsistlessly urging on speakers, doers, communities, unwitting to them- 
selves — the poet to his fieriest words — the race to pursue its loftiest ideal. 
Indeed, the paradox of a nation's life and career, with all its wondrous con- 
tradictions, can probably only be explain'd from these two wills, sometimes 
conflicting, each operating in its sphere, combining in races or in persons, and 
producing strangest results. 

Let us hope there is (indeed, can there be any doubt there is?) this great 
unconscious and abysmic second will also running through the average na- 
tionality and career of America. Let us hope that, amid all the dangers and 
defections of the present, and through all the processes of the conscious will, 
it alone is the permanent and sovereign force, destined to carry on the New 
World to fulfill its destinies in the future — to resolutely pursue those destinies, 
age upon age ; to build, far, far beyond its past vision, present thought; to 
form and fashion, and for the general type, men and women more noble, more 
athletic than the world has yet seen ; to gradually, firmly blend, from all the 
States, with all varieties, a friendly, happy, free, religious nationality — a na- 
tionality not only the richest, most inventive, most productive and materialistic 
the world has yet known, but compacted indissolubly, and out of whose ample 
and solid bulk, and giving purpose and finish to it, conscience, morals, and all 
the spiritual attributes, shall surely rise, like spires above some group of edi- 
fices, firm-footed on the earth, yet scaling space and heaven. 

Great as they are, and greater far to be, the United States, too, are but a 
series of steps in the eternal process of creative thought. And here is, to my 
mind, their final justification, and certain perpetuity. There is in that sub- 
lime process, in the laws of the universe — and, above all, in the moral law — 
something that would make unsatisfactory, and. even vain and contemptible, 
all the triumphs of war, the gains of peace, and the proudest worldly gran- 
deur of all the nations that have ever existed, or that (ours included) now 
exist, except that we constantly see, through all their worldly career, however 
struggling" and blind and lame, attempts, by all ages, all peoples, according to 
their development, to reach, to press, to progress on, and ever farther on, to 
more and more advanced ideals. 

The glory of the republic of the United States, in my opinion, is to be that, 
emerging in the light of the modern and the splendor of science, and solidly 
based on the past, it is to cheerfully range itself, and its politics are hence- 
forth to come, under those universal laws, and embody them, and carry them 
out, to serve them. And as only that individual becomes truly great who 
understands well that, while complete in himself in a certain sense, he is but 
a part of the divine, eternal scheme, and whose special life and laws are ad- 



not for the real only, but the grandest ideal — to justify the modern 
by that, and not only to equal, but to become by that superior to 
the past. On a comprehensive summing up of the processes and 
present and hitherto condition of the United States, with refer- 
ence to their future, and the indispensable precedents to it, my 
point, below all surfaces, and subsoiling them, is, that the bases 
and prerequisites of a leading nationality are, first, at all haz- 
ards, freedom, worldly wealth and products on the largest and 
most varied scale, common education and intercommunication, 
and, in general, the passing through of just the stages and crudi- 
ties we have passed or are passing through in the United States. 
Then, perhaps, as weightiest factor of the whole business, and 
of the main outgrowths of the future, it remains to be definitely 
avow'd that the native-born middle-class population of quite all 
the United States — the average of farmers and mechanics every- 
where — the real, though latent and silent bulk of America, city 
or country, presents a magnificent mass of material, never before 
equaled on earth. It is this material, quite unexpress'd by lite- 
rature or art, that in every respect insures the future of the repub- 

justed to move in harmonious relations with the general laws.of Nature, and 
especially with the moral law, the deepest and highest of all, and the last 
vitality of man or state — so the United States may only become the greatest 
and the most continuous, by understanding well their harmonious relations 
with entire humanity and history, and all their laws and progress, sublimed 
with the creative thought of Deity, through all time, past, present, and future. 
Thus will they expand to the amplitude of their destiny, and become illustra- 
tions and culminating parts of the cosmos, and of civilization. 

No more considering the States as an incident, or series of incidents, how- 
ever vast, coming accidentally along the path of time, and shaped by casual 
emergencies as they happen to arise, and the mere result of modern improve- 
ments, vulgar and lucky, ahead of other nations and times, I would finally 
plant, as seeds, these thoughts or speculations in the growth of our republic — 
that it is the deliberate culmination and result of all the past — that here, too, 
as in all departments of the universe, regular laws (slow and sure in planting, 
slow and sure in ripening) have controll'd and govern'd, and will yet control 
and govern ; and that those laws can no more be baffled or steer'd clear of, or 
vitiated, by chance, or any fortune or opposition, than the laws of winter and 
summer, or darkness and light. 

The summing up of the tremendous moral and military perturbations of 
1861-5, and their results — and indeed of the entire hundred years of the past 
of our national experiment, from its inchoate movement down to the present 
day ( 1 780-1881) — is, that they all now launch the United States fairly forth, 
consistently with the entirety of civilization and humanity, and in main sort 
the representative of them, leading the van, leading the fleet of the modern 
and democratic, on the seas and voyages of the future. 

And the real history of the United States — starting from that great convul- 
sive struggle for unity, the secession war, triumphantly concluded, and the 
South victorious after all-— is only to be written at the remove of hundreds, 
perhaps a thousand, years hence. 


lie. During the Secession War I was with the armies, and saw 
the rank and file, North and South, and studied them for four 
years. I have never had the least doubt about the country in its 
essential future since. 

Meantime, we can (perhaps) do no better than to saturate our- 
selves with, and continue to give imitations, yet awhile, of the 
aesthetic models, supplies, of that past and of those lands we 
spring from. Those wondrous stores, reminiscences, floods, cur- 
rents ! Let them flow on, flow hither freely. And let the sources 
be enlarged, to include not only the works of British origin, as 
now, but stately and devout Spain, courteous France, profound 
Germany, the manly Scandinavian lands, Italy's art race, and 
always the mystic Orient. Remembering that at present, and 
doubtless long ahead, a certain humility would well become us. 
The course through time of highest civilization, does it not wait 
the first glimpse of our contribution to its cosmic train of poems, 
bibles, first-class structures, perpetuities — Egypt and Palestine 
and India — Greece and Rome and mediaeval Europe — and so on- 
ward ? The shadowy procession is not a meagre one, and the 
standard not a low one. All that is mighty in our kind seems to 
have already trod the road. Ah, never may America forget her 
thanks and reverence for samples, treasures such as these — that 
other life-blood, inspiration, sunshine, hourly in use to-day, all 
days, forever, through her broad demesne ! 

All serves our New World progress, even the barriers, head- 
winds, cross-tides. Through many perturbations and squalls, 
and much backing and filling, the ship, upon the whole, makes 
unmistakably for her destination. Shakspere has served, and 
serves, may-be, the best of any. 

For conclusion, a passing thought, a contrast, of him who, in 
my opinion, continues and stands for the Shaksperean cultus at 
the present day among all English-writing peoples — of Tenny- 
son, his poetry. I find it impossible, as I taste the sweetness of 
those lines, to escape the flavor, the conviction, the lush-ripening 
culmination, and last honey of decay (I dare not call it rotten- 
ness) of that feudalism which the mighty English dramatist 
painted in all the splendors of its noon and afternoon. And how 
they are chanted— both poets ! Happy those kings and nobles 
to be so sung, so told ! To run their course — to get their deeds 
and shapes in lasting pigments — the very pomp and dazzle of the 
sunset ! 

Meanwhile, democracy waits the coming of its bards in silence 
and in twilight — but 'tis the twilight of the dawn. 




*' All is proper to be express'd, provided our aim is only high enough." 
—J. F. Millet. 

" The candor of science is the glory of the modem. It does not hide and 
repress; it confronts, turns on the light. It alone has perfect faith — faith not 
in a part only, but all. Does it not undermine the old religious standards? 
Yes, in God's truth, by excluding the devil from the theory of the universe — 
by showing that evil is not a law in itself, but a sickness, a perversion of the 
good, and the other side of the good — that in fact all of humanity, and of 
everything, is divine in its bases, its eligibilities." 

Shall the mention of such topics as I have briefly but plainly 
and resolutely broach'd in the " Children of Adam" section of 
" Leaves of Grass " be admitted in poetry and literature? Ought 
not the innovation to be put down by opinion and criticism? and, 
if those fail, by the District Attorney? True, I could not con- 
struct a poem which declaredly took, as never before, the com- 
plete human identity, physical, moral, emotional, and intellec- 
tual, (giving precedence and compass in a certain sense to the 
first,) nor fulfil that bona fide candor and entirety of treatment 
which was a part of my purpose, without comprehending this 
section also. But I would entrench myself more deeply and 
widely than that. And while I do not ask any man to indorse 
my theory, I confess myself anxious that what I sought to write 
and express, and the ground I built on, shall be at least partially 
understood, from its own platform. The best way seems to me 
to confront the question with entire frankness. 

There are, generally speaking, two points of view, two condi- 
tions of the world's attitude toward these matters; the first, the 
conventional one of good folks and good print everywhere, re- 
pressing any direct statement of them, and making allusions only 
at second or third hand — (as the Greeks did of death, which, in 
Hellenic social culture, was not mention'd point-blank, but by 
euphemisms.) In the civilization of to-day, this condition — 
without stopping to elaborate the arguments and facts, which are 
many and varied and perplexing — has led to states of ignorance, 
repressal, and cover'd over disease and depletion, forming cer- 
tainly a main factor in the world's woe. A non-scientific, non- 
aesthetic, and eminently non-religious condition, bequeath'd to 
us from the past, (its origins diverse, one of them the far-back 
lessons of benevolent and wise men to restrain the prevalent 
coarseness and animality of the tribal ages — with Puritanism, or 
perhaps Protestantism itself for another, and still another speci- 
fied in the latter part of this memorandum) — to it is probably 
due most of the ill births, inefficient maturity, snickering pruri- 


ency, and of that human pathologic evil and morbidity which is, 
in my opinion, the keel and reason-why of every evil and mor- 
bidity. Its scent, as of something sneaking, furtive, mephitic, 
seems to lingeringly pervade all modern literature, conversation, 
and manners. 

The second point of view, and by far the largest — as the world 
in working-day dress vastly exceeds the world in parlor toilette — 
is the one of common life, from the oldest times down, and espe- 
cially in England, (see the earlier chapters of " Taine's English 
Literature," and see Shakspere almost anywhere,) and which our 
age to-day inherits from riant stock, in the wit, or what passes 
for wit, of masculine circles, and in erotic stories and talk, to 
excite, express, and dwell on, that merely sensual voluptuousness 
which, according to Victor Hugo, is the most universal trait of 
all ages, all lands. This second condition, however bad, is at any 
rate like a disease which comes to the surface, and therefore less 
dangerous than a conceal'd one. 

The time seems to me to have arrived, and America to*be the 
place, for a new departure — a third point o£ view. The same 
freedom and faith and earnestness which, after centuries of denial, 
struggle, repression, and martyrdom, the present day brings to 
the treatment of politics and religion, must work out a plan and 
standard on this subject, not so much for what is call'd society, 
as for thoughtfulest men and women, and thoughtfulest litera- 
ture. The same spirit that marks the physiological author and 
demonstrator on these topics in his important field, I have thought 
necessary to be exemplified, for once, in another certainly not 
less important field. 

In the present memorandum I only venture to indicate that 
plan and view — decided upon more than twenty years ago, for 
my own literary action, and formulated tangibly in my printed 
poems — (as Bacon says an abstract thought or theory is of no 
moment unless it leads to a deed or work done, exemplifying it 
in the concrete) — that the sexual passion in itself, while normal 
and unperverted, is inherently legitimate, creditable, not neces- 
sarily an improper theme for poet, as confessedly not for scien- 
tist — that, with reference to the whole construction, organism, 
and intentions of "Leaves of Grass," anything short of confront- 
ing that theme, and making myself clear upon it, as the enclosing 
basis of everything, (as the sanity of everything was to be the 
atmosphere of the poems,) I should beg the question in its most 
momentous aspect, and the superstructure that follow'd, preten- 
sive as it might assume to be, would all rest on a poor founda- 
tion, or no foundation at all. In short, as the assumption of the 
sanity of birth, Nature and humanity, is the key to any true 



theory of life and the universe — at any rate, the only theory out 
of which I wrote — it is, and must inevitably be, the only key to 
" Leaves of Grass," and every part of it. That, (and not a vain 
consistency or weak pride, as a late "Springfield Republican" 
charges,) is the reason that I have stood out for these particular 
verses uncompromisingly for over twenty years, and maintain 
them to this day. That is what I felt in my inmost brain and 
heart, when I only answer'd Emerson's vehement arguments with 
silence, under the old elms of Boston Common. 

Indeed, might not every physiologist and every good physician 
pray for the redeeming of this subject from its hitherto relega- 
tion to the tongues and pens of blackguards, and boldly putting 
it for once at least, if no more, in the demesne of poetry and 
sanity — as something not in itself gross or impure, but entirely 
consistent with highest manhood and womanhood, and indispen- 
sable to both? Might not only every wife and every mother — 
not only every babe that comes into the world, if that were pos- 
sible — not only all marriage, the foundation and sine qua non of 
the civilized state — bless and thank the showing, or taking for 
granted, that motherhood, fatherhood, sexuality, and all that be- 
longs to them, can be asserted, where it comes to question, openly, 
joyously, proudly, "without shame or the need of shame," from 
the highest artistic and human considerations — but, with rever- 
ence be it written, on such attempt to justify the base and start 
of the whole divine scheme in humanity, might not the Creative 
Power itself deign a smile of approval ? 

To the movement for the eligibility and entrance of women 
amid new spheres of business, politics, and the suffrage, the cur- 
rent prurient, conventional treatment of sex is the main formida- 
ble obstacle. The rising tide of "woman's rights," swelling 
and every year advancing farther and farther, recoils from it with 
dismay. There will in my opinion be no general progress in such 
eligibility till a sensible, philosophic, democratic method is sub- 

The whole question — which strikes far, very far deeper than 
most people have supposed, (and doubtless, too, something is to 
be said on all sides,) is peculiarly an important one in art — is 
first an ethic, and then still more an aesthetic one. I condense 
from a paper read not long since at Cheltenham, England, before 
the " Social Science Congress," to the Art Department, by P. H. 
Rathbone of Liverpool, on the " Undraped Figure in Art," and 
the discussion that follow'd : 

" When coward Europe suffer'd the unclean Turk to soil the sacred shores 
of Greece by his polluting presence, civilization and morality receiv'd a blow 
from which they have never entirely recover'd, and the trail of the serpent has 


been over European art and European society ever since. The Turk regarded 
and regards women as animals without soul, toys to be play'd with or broken 
at pleasure, and to be hidden, partly from shame, but chiefly for the purpose 
of stimulating exhausted passion. Such is the unholy origin of the objection 
to the nude as a fit subject for art ; it is purely Asiatic, and though not intro- 
duced for the first time in the fifteenth century, is yet to be traced to the 
source of all impurity — the East. Although the source of the prejudice is 
thoroughly unhealthy and impure, yet it is now shared by many pure-minded 
and honest, if somewhat uneducated, people. But I am prepared to maintain 
that it is necessary for the future of English art and of English morality that 
the right of the nude to a place in our galleries should be. boldly asserted ; it 
must, however, be the nude as represented by thoroughly trained artists, and 
with a pure and noble ethic purpose. The human form, male and female, is 
the type and standard of all beauty of form and proportion, and it is necessary 
to be thoroughly familiar with it in order safely to judge of all beauty which 
consists of form and proportion. To women it is most necessary that they 
should become thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of the ideal female 
form, in order that they should recognize the perfection of it at once, and 
without effort, and so far as possible avoid deviations from the ideal. Had 
this been the case in times past, we should not have had to deplore the dis- 
tortions effected by tight-lacing, which destroy'd the figure and ruin'd the 
health of so many of the last generation. Nor should we have had the scan- 
dalous dresses alike-of society and the stage. The extreme development of 
the low dresses which obtain'd some years ago, when the stays crush'd up the 
breasts into suggestive prominence, would surely have been check'd, had the 
eye of the public been properly educated by familiarity with the exquisite 
beauty of line of a well-shaped bust. I might show how thorough acquaint- 
ance with the ideal nude foot would probably have much modified the foot- 
torturing boots and high heels, which wring the foot out of all beauty of line, 
and throw the body forward into an awkward and ungainly attitude. 

" It is argued that the effect of nude representation of women upon young 
men is "unwholesome, but it would not be so if such works were admitted with- 
out question into our galleries, and became thoroughly familiar to them. On 
the contrary, it would do much to clear away from healthy-hearted lads one of 
their sorest trials — that prurient curiosity which is bred of prudish conceal- 
ment. Where there is mystery there is the suggestion of evil, and to go to 
a theatre, where you have only to look at the stalls to see one-half of the fe- 
male form, and to the stage to see the other half undraped, is far more preg- 
nant with evil imaginings than the most objectionable of totally undraped 
figures. In French art there have been questionable nude figures exhibited ; 
but the fault was not that they were nude, but that they were the portraits of 
ugly immodest women." 

Some discussion follow'd. There was a general concurrence in the principle 
contended for by the reader of the paper. Sir Walter Stirling maintain'd that 
the perfect male figure, rather than the female, was the model of beauty. After 
a few remarks from Rev. Mr. Roberts and Colonel 01dfield,the Chairman re- 
gretted that no opponent of nude figures had taken part in the discussion. He 
agreed with Sir Walter Stirling as to the male figure being the most perfect 
model of proportion. He join'd in defending the exhibition of nude figures, 
but thought considerable supervision should be exercised over such exhibi- 

No, it is not the picture or nude statue or text, with clear aim, 
that is indecent ; it is the beholder's own thought, inference, dis- 


306 • COLLECT. 

torted construction. True modesty is one of the most precious 
of attributes, even virtues, but in nothing is there more pretense, 
more falsity, than the needless assumption of it. Through pre- 
cept and consciousness, man has long enough realized how bad 
he is. I would not so much disturb or demolish that conviction, 
only to resume and keep unerringly with it the spinal meaning 
of the Scriptural text, God overlook? d all that He had made, (in- 
cluding the apex of the whole — humanity — with its elements, 
passions, appetites,) and behold, it was very good. 

Does not anything short of that third point of view, when 
you come to think of it profoundly and with amplitude, impugn 
Creation from the outset? In fact, however overlaid, or unaware 
of itself, does not the conviction involv'd in it perennially ex- 
ist at the centre of all society, and of the sexes, and of marriage? 
Is it not really an intuition of the human race? For, old as the 
world is, and beyond statement as are the countless and splendid 
results of its culture and evolution, perhaps the best and earliest 
and purest intuitions of the human race have yet to be develop' d. 


LECTURE delivered in New York, April 14, i8jq — in Philadephia, '8o — in 

Boston, '81. 

How often since that dark and dripping Saturday — that chilly 
April day, now fifteen years bygone — my heart has entertain'd 
the dream, the wish, to give of Abraham Lincoln's death, its own 
special thought and memorial. Yet now the sought-for oppor- 
tunity offers, I find my notes incompetent, (why, for truly pro- 
found themes, is statement so idle? why does the right phrase 
never offer?) and the fit tribute I dream'd of, waits unprepared 
as ever. My talk here indeed is less because of itself or any- 
thing in it, and nearly altogether because I feel a desire, apart 
from any talk, to specify the day, the martyrdom. It is for this, 
my friends, I have call'd you together. Oft as the rolling years 
bring back this hour, let it again, however briefly, be dwelt upon. 
For my own part, I hope and desire, till my own dying day, 
whenever the 14th or 15th of April comes, to annually gather a 
few friends, and hold its tragic reminiscence. No narrow or 
sectional reminiscence. It belongs to these States in their en- 
tirety — not the North only, but the South — perhaps belongs most 
tenderly and devoutly to the South, of all ; for there, really, 
this man's birth-stock. There and thence his antecedent stamp. 


Why should I not say that thence his manliest traits — his univer- 
sality — his canny, easy ways and words upon the surface — his in- 
flexible determination and courage at heart? Have you never 
realized it, my friends, that Lincoln, though grafted on the West 
is essentially, in personnel and character, a Southern contribu- 

And though by no means proposing to resume the Secession 
war to-night, I would briefly remind you of the public condi- 
tions preceding that contest. For twenty years, and especially 
during the four or five before the war actually began, the aspect 
of affairs in the United States, though without the flash of mili- 
tary excitement, presents more than the survey of a battle, or any 
extended campaign, or series, even of Nature's convulsions. The 
hot passions of the South — the strange mixture at the North of 
inertia, incredulity, and conscious power — the incendiarism of 
the abolitionists — the rascality and grip of the politicians, unpar- 
allel'd in any land, any age. To these I must not omit adding 
the honesty of the essential bulk of the people everywhere — yet 
with all the seething fury and contradiction of their natures more 
arous'd than the Atlantic's waves in wildest equinox. In politics, 
what can be more ominous, (though generally unappreciated 
then) — what more significant than the Presidentiads of Fillmore 
and Buchanan? proving conclusively that the weakness and 
wickedness of elected rulers are just as likely to afflict us here, 
as in the countries of the Old World, under their monarchies, 
emperors, and aristocracies. In that Old World were everywhere 
heard underground rumblings, that died out, only to again surely 
return. While in America the volcano, though civic yet, con- 
tinued to grow more and more convulsive — more and more 
stormy and threatening. 

In the height of all this excitement and chaos, hovering on the 
edge at first, and then merged in its very midst, and destined to 
play a leading part, appears a strange and awkward figure. I 
shall not easily forget the first time I ever saw Abraham Lincoln. 
It must have been about the 18th or 19th of February, 1861. It 
was rather a pleasant afternoon, in New York city, as he arrived 
there from the West, to remain a few hours, and then pass on to 
Washington, to prepare for his inauguration. I saw him in 
Broadway, near the site of the present Post-office. He came 
down, I think from Canal street, to stop at the Astor House. 
The broad spaces, sidewalks, and street in the neighborhood, and 
for some distance, were crowded with solid masses of people, 
many thousands. The omnibuses and other vehicles had all been 
turn'd off, leaving an unusual hush in that busy part of the city. 
Presently two or three shabby hack barouches made their way 

3 o8 COLLECT. 

with some difficulty through the crowd, and drew up at the Astor 
House entrance. A tall figure step'd out of the centre of these 
barouches, paus'd leisurely on the sidewalk, look'd up at the 
granite walls and looming architecture of the grand old hotel — 
then, after a relieving stretch of arms and legs, turn'd round for 
over a minute to slowly and good-humoredly scan the appearance 
of the vast and silent crowds. There were no speeches — no 
compliments — no welcome — as far as I could hear, not a word 
said. Still much anxiety was conceal'd in that quiet. Cautious 
persons had fear'd some mark'd insult or indignity to the Presi- 
dent-elect — for he possess'd no personal popularity at all in New 
York city, and very little political. But it was evidently tacitly 
agreed that if the few political supporters of Mr. Lincoln present 
would entirely abstain from any demonstration on their side, the 
immense majority, who were any thing but supporters, would 
abstain on their side also. The result was a sulky, unbroken 
silence, such as certainly never before characterized so great a 
New York crowd. 

Almost in the v same neighborhood I distinctly remember' d 
seeing Lafayette on his visit to America in 1825. I had also per- 
sonally seen and heard, various years afterward, how Andrew 
Jackson, Clay, Webster, Hungarian Kossuth, Filibuster Walker, 
the Prince of Wales # on his visit, and other celebres, native and 
foreign, had been welcom'd there — all that indescribable human 
roar and magnetism, unlike any other sound in the universe — the 
glad exulting thunder-shouts of countless unloos'd throats of 
men ! But on this occasion, not a voice — not a sound. From 
the top of an omnibus, (driven up one side, close by, and block'd 
by the curbstone and the crowds,) I had, I say, a capital view of 
it all, and especially of Mr. Lincoln, his look and gait — his per- 
fect composure and coolness — his unusual and uncouth height, 
his dress of complete black, stovepipe hat push'd back on the 
head, dark-brown complexion, seam'd and wrinkled yet canny- 
looking face, black, bushy head of hair, disproportionately long 
neck, and his hands held behind as he stood observing the peo- 
ple. He look'd with curiosity upon that immense sea of faces, 
and the sea of faces return'd the look with similar curiosity. In 
both there was a dash of comedy, almost farce, such as Shak- 
spere puts in his blackest tragedies. The crowd that hemni'd 
around consisted I should think of thirty to forty thousand men, 
not a single one his personal friend — while I have no doubt, (so 
frenzied were the ferments of the time,) many an assassin's knife 
and pistol lurk'd in hip or breast-pocket there, ready, soon as 
break and riot came. 

But no break or riot came. The tall figure gave another re- 


lieving stretch or two of arms and legs ; then with moderate pace, 
and accompanied by a few unknown looking persons, ascended 
the portico-steps of the Astor House, disappear'd through its 
broad entrance — and the dumb-show ended. 

I saw Abraham Lincoln often the four years following that 
date. He changed rapidly and much during his Presidency — 
but this scene, and him in it, are indelibly stamped upon my 
recollection. As I sat on the top of my omnibus, and had a good 
view of him, the thought, dim and inchoate then, has since come 
out clear enough, that four sorts of genius, four mighty and 
primal hands, will be needed to the complete limning of this 
man's future portrait — the eyes and brains and finger-touch of 
Plutarch and Eschylus and Michel Angelo, assisted by Rabelais. 

And now — (Mr. Lincoln passing on from this scene to Wash- 
ington, where he was inaugurated, amid armed cavalry, and 
sharpshooters at every point — the first instance of the kind in our 
history — and I hop? it will be the last) — now the rapid succession 
of well-known events, (too well known — I believe, these days, 
we almost hate to hear them mention'd) — the national flag fired 
on at Sumter — the uprising of the North, in paroxysms of as- 
tonishment and rage — the chaos of divided councils — the call for 
troops — the first Bull Run — the stunning cast-down, shock, and 
dismay of the North — and so in full flood the Secession war. 
Four years of lurid, bleeding, murky, murderous war. Who 
paint those years, with all their scenes? — the hard-fought engage- 
ments — the defeats, plans, failures — the gloomy hours, days, when 
our Nationality seem'd hung in pall of doubt, perhaps death — 
the Mephistophelean sneers of foreign lands and attaches — the 
dreaded Scylla of European interference, and the Charybdis of 
the tremendously dangerous latent strata of secession sympa- 
thizers throughout the free States, (far more numerous than is 
supposed) — the long marches in summer — the hot sweat, and 
many a sunstroke, as on the rush to Gettysburg in '63 — the night 
battles in the woods, as under Hooker at Chancellorsville — the 
camps in winter — the military prisons — the hospitals — (alas ! alas ! 
the hospitals.) 

The Secession war? Nay, let me call it the Union war.. 
Though whatever call'd, it is even yet too near us — too vast and 
too closely overshadowing — its branches unform'd yet, (but cer- 
tain,) shooting too far into the future — and the most indicative 
and mightiest of them yet ungrown. A great literature will yet 
arise out of the era of those four years, those scenes — era com- 
pressing centuries of native passion, first-class pictures, tempests 
of life and death — an inexhaustible mine for the histories, drama, 
romance, and even philosophy, of peoples to come — indeed the 

3 i o COLLECT. 

verteber of poetry and art, (of personal character too,) for all 
future America — far more grand, in my opinion, to the hands 
capable of it, than Homer's siege of Troy, or the French wars 
to Shakspere. 

But I must leave these speculations, and come to the theme I 
have assign'd and limited myself to. Of the actual murder of 
President Lincoln, though so much has been written, probably 
the facts are yet very indefinite in most persons' minds. I read 
from my memoranda, written at the time, and revised frequently 
and finally since. 

The day, April 14, 1865, seems to have been a pleasant one 
throughout the whole land — the moral atmosphere pleasant too — 
the long storm, so dark, so fratricidal, full of blood and doubt 
and gloom, over and ended at last by the sun-rise of such an ab- 
solute National victory, and utter break-down of Secessionism — 
we almost doubted our own senses ! Lee had capitulated beneath 
the apple-tree of Appomattox. The other armies, the flanges of 
the revolt, swiftly follow'd. And could it really be, then? Out 
of all the affairs of this world of woe and failure and disorder, 
was there really come the confirm'd, unerring sign of plan, like 
a shaft of pure light — of rightful rule — of God ? So the day, as 
I say, was propitious. Early herbage, early flowers, were out. 
(I remember where I was stopping at the time, the season being 
advanced, there were many lilacs in full bloom. By one of those 
caprices that enter and give tinge to events without being at all 
a part of them, I find myself always reminded of the great tragedy 
of that day by the sight and odor of these blossoms. It never 

But I must not dwell on accessories. The deed hastens. The 
popular afternoon paper of Washington, the little " Evening 
Star," had spatter'd all over its third page, divided among the 
advertisements in a sensational manner, in a hundred different 
places, The President and his Lady will be at the Theatre this 
evening. . . . (Lincoln was fond of the theatre. I have myself 
seen him there several times. I remember thinking how funny 
it was that he, in some respects the leading actor in the stormiest 
drama known to real history's stage through centuries, should 
sit there and be so completely interested and absorb'd in those 
human jack-straws, moving about with their silly little gestures, 
foreign spirit, and flatulent text.) 

On this occasion the theatre was crowded, many ladies in rich 
and gay costumes, officers in their uniforms, many well-known 
citizens, young folks, the usual clusters of gas-lights, the usual 
magnetism of so many people, cheerful, with perfumes, music of 
violins and flutes — (and over all, and saturating all, that vast, 


vague wonder, Victory, the nation's victory, the triumph of the 
Union, filling the air, the thought, the sense, with exhilaration 
more than all music and perfumes.) 

The President came betimes, and, with his wife, witness'd the 
play from the large stage-boxes of the second tier, two thrown 
into one, and profusely draped with the national flag. The acts 
and scenes of the piece — one of those singularly written compo- 
sitions which have at least the merit of giving entire relief to an 
audience engaged in mental action or business excitements and 
cares during the day, as it makes not the slightest call on either 
the moral, emotional, esthetic, or spiritual nature — a piece, 
("Our American Cousin,") in which, among other characters, so 
call'd, a Yankee, certainly such a one as was never seen, or the 
least like it ever seen, in North America, is introduced in Eng- 
land, with a varied fol-de-rol of talk, plot, scenery, and such 
phantasmagoria as goes to make up a modern popular drama — 
had progress'd through perhaps a couple of its acts, when in the 
midst of this comedy, or non-such, or whatever it is to be call'd, 
and to offset it, or finish it out, as if in Nature's and the great 
Muse's mockery of those poor mimes, came interpolated that 
scene, not really or exactly to be described at all, (for on the 
many hundreds who were there it seems to this hour to have left 
a passing blur, a dream, a blotch) — and yet partially to be de- 
scribed as I now proceed to give it. There is a scene in the 
play representing a modern parlor, in which two unprecedented 
English ladies are inform'd by the impossible Yankee that he is 
not a man of fortune, and therefore undesirable for marriage- 
catching purposes; after which, the comments being finish'd, the 
dramatic trio make exit, leaving the stage clear for a moment. 
At this period came the murder of Abraham Lincoln. Great as 
all its manifold train, circling round it, and stretching into the 
future for many a century, in the politics, history, art, &c, of 
the New World, in point of fact the main thing, the actual mur- 
der, transpired with the quiet and simplicity of any commonest 
occurrence — the bursting of a bud or pod in the growth of vege- 
tation, for instance. Through the general hum following the 
stage pause, with the change of positions, came the muffled 
sound of a pistol-shot, which not one-hundredth part of the au- 
dience heard at the time — and yet a moment's hush — somehow, 
surely, a vague startled thrill — and then, through the ornamented, 
draperied, starr'd and striped space-way of the President's box, 
a sudden figure, a man, raises himself with hands and feet, stands 
a moment on the railing, leaps below to the stage, (a distance of 
perhaps fourteen or fifteen feet,) falls out of position, catching 
his boot-heel in the copious drapery, (the American flag,) falls 



on one knee, quickly recovers himself, rises as if nothing had 
happen'd, (he really sprains his ankle, but unfelt then) — and so 
the figure, Booth, the murderer, dress'd in plain black broadcloth, 
bare-headed, with full, glossy, raven hair, and his eyes like some 
mad animal's flashing with light and resolution, yet with a certain 
strange calmness, holds aloft in one hand a large knife — walks 
along not much back from the footlights — turns fully toward the 
audience his face of statuesque beauty, lit by those basilisk eyes, 
flashing with desperation, perhaps insanity — launches out in a 
firm and steady voice the words Sic semper tyrannis — and then 
walks with neither slow nor very rapid pace diagonally across to 
the back of the stage, and disappears. (Had not all this terrible 
scene — making the mimic ones preposterous — had it not ail been 
rehears'd, in blank, by Booth, beforehand?) 

A moment's hush — a scream — the cry of murder — Mrs. Lincoln 
leaning out of the box, with ashy cheeks and lips, with involun- 
tary cry, pointing to the retreating figure, He has kilf d the Presi- 
dent. And still a moment's strange, incredulous suspense — and 
then the deluge ! — then that mixture of horror, noises, uncertainty 
— (the sound, somewhere back, of a horse's hoofs clattering with 
speed) — the people burst through chairs and railings, and break 
them up — there is inextricable confusion and terror — women 
faint — quite feeble persons fall, and are trampled on — many cries 
of agony are heard — the broad stage suddenly fills to suffocation 
with a dense and motley crowd, like some horrible carnival — the 
audience rush generally upon it, at least the strong men do — the 
actors and actresses are all there in their play-costumes and painted 
faces, with mortal fright showing through the rouge — the screams 
and calls, confused talk — redoubled, trebled — two or three man- 
age to pass up water from the stage to the President's box — others 
try to clamber up — &c, &c. 

In the midst of all this, the soldiers of the President's guard, 
with others, suddenly drawn to the scene, burst in — (some two 
hundred altogether) — they storm the house, through all the tiers, 
especially the upper ones, inflamed with fury, literally charging 
the audience with fix'd bayonets, muskets and pistols, shouting 

Clear out! clear out ! you sons of Such the wild 

scene, or a suggestion of it rather, inside the play-house that 

Outside, too, in the atmosphere of shock and craze, crowds of 
people, fill'd with frenzy, ready to seize any outlet for it, come 
near committing murder several times on innocent individuals. 
One such case was especially exciting. The infuriated crowd, 
through some chance, got started against one man, either for 
words he utter'd, or perhaps without any cause at all, and were 


proceeding at once to actually hang hiin on a neighboring lamp- 
post, when he was rescued by a few heroic policemen, who placed 
him in their midst, and fought their way slowly and amid great 
peril toward the station house. It was a fitting episode of the 
whole affair. The crowd rushing and eddying to and fro — the 
night, the yells, the pale faces, many frighten'd people trying in 
vain to extricate themselves — the attack'd man, not yet freed 
from the jaws of death, looking like a corpse — the silent, resolute, 
half-dozen policemen, with no weapons but their little clubs, yet 
stern and steady through all those eddying swarms — made a fit- 
ting side-scene to the grand tragedy of the murder. They gain'd 
the station house with the protected man, whom they placed in 
security for the night, and discharged him in the morning. 

And in the midst of that pandemonium, infuriated soldiers, 
the audience and the crowd, the stage, and all its actors and ac- 
tresses, its paint-pots, spangles, and gas-lights — the life blood 
from those veins, the best and sweetest of the land, drips slowly 
down, and death's ooze already begins its little bubbles on the 

Thus the visible incidents and surroundings of Abraham Lin- 
coln's murder, as they really occur'd. Thus ended the attempted 
secession of these States ; thus the four years' war. But the 
main things come subtly and invisibly afterward, perhaps long 
afterward — neither military, political, nor (great as those are,) 
historical. I say, certain secondary and indirect results, out of 
the tragedy of this death, are, in my opinion, greatest. Not the 
event of the murder itself. Not that Mr. Lincoln strings the 
principal points and personages of the period, like beads, upon 
the single string of his career. Not that his idiosyncrasy, in its 
sudden appearance and disappearance, stamps this Republic with 
a stamp more mark'd and enduring than any yet given by any 
one man — (more even than Washington's;) — but, join'd with 
these, the immeasurable value and meaning of that whole tragedy 
lies, to me, in senses finally dearest to a nation, (and here all 
our own) — the imaginative and artistic senses — the literary 
and dramatic ones. Not in any common or low meaning of 
those terms, but a meaning precious to the race, and to every 
age. A long and varied series of contradictory events arrives at 
last at its highest poetic, single, central, pictorial denouement. 
The whole involved, baffling, multiform whirl of the secession 
period comes to a head, and is gather'd in one brief flash of light- 
ning-illumination — one simple, fierce deed. Its sharp culmi- 
nation, and as it were solution, of so many bloody and angry 
problems, illustrates those climax-moments on the stage of uni- 
versal Time, where the historic Muse at one entrance, and the 


3 T 4 


tragic Muse at the other, suddenly ringing down the curtain, 
close an immense act in the long drama of creative thought, and 
give it radiation, tableau, stranger than fiction. Fit radiation — 
fit close ! How the imagination — how the student loves these 
things ! America, too, is to have them. For not in all great 
deaths, nor far or near — not Caesar in the Roman senate-house, 
or Napoleon passing away in the wild night-storm at St. Helena 
— not Paleologus, falling, desperately fighting, piled over dozens 
deep with Grecian corpses — not calm old Socrates, drinking the 
hemlock — outvies that terminus of the secession war, in one 
man's life, here in our midst, in our own time — that seal of the 
emancipation of three million slaves — that parturition and de- 
livery of our at last really free Republic, born again, henceforth 
to commence its career of genuine homogeneous Union, com- 
pact, consistent with itself. 

Nor will ever future American Patriots and Unionists, indif- 
ferently over the whole land, or North or South, find a better 
moral to their lesson. The final use of the greatest men of a 
Nation is, after all, not with reference to their deeds in them- 
selves, or their direct bearing on their times or lands. The final 
use of a heroic-eminent life — especially of a heroic-eminent 
death — is its indirect filtering into the nation and the race, and 
to give, often at many removes, but unerringly, age after age, 
color and fibre to the personalism of the youth and maturity of 
that age, and of mankind. Then there is a cement to the whole 
people, subtler, more underlying, than any thing in written con- 
stitution, or courts or armies — namely, the cement of a death 
identified thoroughly with that people, at its head, and for its 
sake. Strange, (is it not?) that battles, martyrs, agonies, blood, 
even assassination, should so condense — perhaps only really, last- 
ingly condense — a Nationality. 

I repeat it — the grand deaths of the race — the dramatic deaths 
of every nationality — are its most important inheritance-value — 
in some respects beyond its literature and art — (as the hero is 
beyond his finest portrait, and the battle itself beyond its choicest 
song or epic.) Is not here indeed the point underlying all 
tragedy? the famous pieces of the Grecian masters — and all 
masters? Why, if the old Greeks had had this man, what trilo- 
gies of plays — what epics — would have been made out of him ! 
How the rhapsodes would have recited him ! How quickly that 
quaint tall form would have enter'd into the region where men 
vitalize gods, and gods divinify men ! But Lincoln, his times, 
his death — great as any, any age — belong altogether to our own, 
and are autochthon ic. (Sometimes indeed I think our American 
days, our own stage — the actors we know and have shaken hands, 


or talk'd with — more fateful than any thing in Eschylus — more 
heroic than the fighters around Troy — afford kings of men for 
our Democracy prouder than Agamemnon — models of character 
cute and hardy as Ulysses — deaths more pitiful than Priam's.) 

When, centuries hence, (as it must, in my opinion, be centu- 
ries hence before the life of these States, or of Democracy, can 
be really written and illustrated,) the leading historians and 
dramatists seek for some personage, some special event, incisive 
enough to mark with deepest cut, and mnemonize, this turbulent 
Nineteenth century of ours, (not only these States, but all over 
the political and social world) — something, perhaps, to close that 
gorgeous procession of European feudalism, with all its pomp 
and caste-prejudices, (of whose long train we in America are yet 
so inextricably the heirs) — something to identify with terrible 
identification, by far the greatest revolutionary step in the his- 
tory of the United States, (perhaps the greatest of the world, 
our century) — the absolute extirpation and erasure of slavery 
from the States — those historians will seek in vain for any point 
to serve more thoroughly their purpose, than Abraham Lincoln's 

Dear to the Muse — thrice dear to Nationality — to the whole 
human race — precious to this Union — precious to Democracy — 
unspeakably and forever precious — their first great Martyr Chief. 


I, — To {London, England.) 

Camden, N. J., U. S. America, March ifth, 18yd. 

Dear Friend : — Yours of the 28th Feb. receiv'd, and indeed 
welcom'd. I am jogging along still about the same in physical 
condition — still certainly no worse, and I sometimes lately suspect 
rather better, or at any rate more adjusted to the situation. 
Even begin to think of making some move, some change of base, 
&c. : the doctors have been advising it for over two years, but I 
haven't felt to do it yet. My paralysis does not lift — I cannot 
walk any distance — I still have this baffling, obstinate, apparently 
chronic affection of the stomachic apparatus and liver : yet I 
get out of doors a little every day — write and read in modera- 
tion — appetite sufficiently good — (eat only very plain food, but 
always did that)— digestion tolerable — spirits unflagging. I have 
told you most of this before, but suppose you might like to know 
it all again, up to date. Of course, and pretty darkly coloring 
the whole, are bad spells, prostrations, some pretty grave ones, 


intervals — and I have resign'd myself to the certainty of perma- 
nent incapacitation from solid work : but things may continue at 
least in this half-and-half way for months, even years. 

My books are out, the new edition; a set of which, immedi- 
ately on receiving your letter of 28th, I have sent you, (by mail, 
March 15,) and I suppose you have before this receiv'd them. 
My dear friend, your offers of help, and those of my other 
British friends, I think I fully appreciate, in the right spirit, wel- 
come and acceptive — leaving the matter altogether in your and 
their hands, and to your and their convenience, discretion, lei- 
sure, and nicety. Though poor now, even to penury, I have not 
so far been deprived of any physical thing I need or wish what- 
ever, and I feel confident I shall not in the future. During my 
employment of seven years or more in Washington after the war 
(1865-72) I regularly saved part of my wages : and, though the 
sum has now become about exhausted by my expenses of the last 
three years, there are already beginning at present welcome drib- 
bles hitherward from the sales of my new edition, which I just 
job and sell, myself, (all through this illness, my book-agents foi 
three years in New York successively, badly cheated me,) and 
shall continue to dispose of the books myself. And that is the 
way I should prefer to glean my support. In that way I cheer- 
fully accept all the aid my friends find it convenient to proffer. 

To repeat a little, and without undertaking details, understand, 
dear friend, for yourself and all, that I heartily and most affec- 
tionately thank my British friends, and that I accept their sym- 
pathetic generosity in the same spirit in which I believe (nay, 
know) it is offer'd — that though poor I am not in want — that I 
maintain good heart and cheer; and that by far the most satis- 
faction to me (and I think it can be done, and believe it will be) 
will be to live, as long as possible, on the sales, by myself, of my 
own works, and perhaps, if practicable, by further writings for 
the press. W. VV. 

I am prohibited from writing too much, and I must make this 
candid statement of the situation serve for all my dear friends 
over there. 

2. — To ■ (Dresden, Saxony.') 

Camden, New Jersey, U. S. A., Dec. 20, *8i. 

Dear Sir: — Your letter asking definite endorsement to your 
translation of my "Leaves of Grass 11 into Russian is just re- 
ceived, and I hasten to answer it. Most warmly and willingly 
I consent to the translation, and waft a prayerful God speed to 
the enterprise. 


You Russians and we Americans ! Our countries so distant, so 
unlike at first glance — such a difference in social and political 
conditions, and our respective methods of moral and practical 
development the last hundred years ;— and yet in certain features, 
and vastest ones, so resembling each other. The variety of 
stock-elements and tongues, to be resolutely fused in a common 
identity and union at all hazards — the idea, perennial through 
the ages, that they both have their historic and divine mission — 
the fervent element of manly friendship throughout the whole 
people, surpass'd by no other races — the grand expanse of terri- 
torial limits and boundaries — the unform'd and nebulous state 
of many things, not yet permanently settled, but agreed on all 
hands to be the preparations of an infinitely greater future — the fact 
that both Peoples have their independent and leading positions to 
hold, keep, and if necessary, fight for, against the rest of the 
world — the deathless aspirations at the inmost centre of each 
great community, so vehement, so mysterious, so abysmic — are 
certainly features you Russians and we Americans possess in 

As my dearest dream is for an internationally of poems and 
poets, binding the lands of the earth closer than all treaties and 
diplomacy — As the purpose beneath the rest in my book is such 
hearty comradeship, for individuals to begin with, and for all the 
nations of the earth as a result — how happy I should be to get 
the hearing and emotional contact of the great Russian peoples. 

To whom, now and here, (addressing you for Russia and Rus- 
sians, and empowering you, should you see fit, to print the present 
letter, in your book, as a preface,) I waft affectionate salutation 
from these shores, in America's name. 'V. W. 



It is more and more clear to me that the main sustenance for 
highest separate personality, these States, is to come from that 
general sustenance of the aggregate, (as air, earth, rains, give 
sustenance to a tree) — and that such personality, by democratic 
standards, will only be fully coherent, grand and free, through 
the cohesion, grandeur and freedom of the common aggregate, 
the Union. Thus the existence of the true American continental 
solidarity of the future, depending on myriads of superb, large- 
sized, emotional and physically perfect individualities, of one 
sex just as much as the other, the supply of such individualities, 
in my opinion, wholly depends on a compacted imperial en- 

3 i 8 COLLECT. 

semble. The theory and practice of both sovereignties, contra- 
dictory as they are, are necessary. As the centripetal law were 
fatal alone, or the centrifugal law deadly and destructive alone, 
but together forming the law of eternal kosmical action, evolu- 
tion, preservation, and life — so, by itself alone, the fullness of 
individuality, even the sanest, would surely destroy itself. This 
is what makes the importance to the identities of these States of 
the thoroughly fused, relentless, dominating Union — a moral 
and spiritual idea, subjecting all the parts with remorseless power, 
more needed by American democracy than by any of history's 
hitherto empires or feudalities, and the sine qua non of carrying 
out the republican principle to develop itself in the New World 
through hundreds, thousands of years to come. 

Indeed, what most needs fostering through the hundred years 
to come, in all parts of the United States, north, south, Missis- 
sippi valley, and Atlantic and Pacific coasts, is this fused and 
fervent identity of the individual, whoever he or she may be, 
and wherever the place, with the idea and fact of American to- 
tality, and with what is meant by the Flag, the stars and stripes. 
We need this conviction of nationality as a faith, to be absorb'd 
in the blood and belief of the people everywhere, south, north, 
west, east, to emanate in their life, and in native literature 
and art. We want the germinal idea that America, inheritor of 
the past, is the custodian of the future of humanity. Judging 
from history, it is some such moral and spiritual ideas appropri- 
ate to them, (and such ideas only,) that have made the profound- 
est glory and endurance of nations in the past. The races of 
Judea, the classic clusters of Greece and Rome, and the feudal 
and ecclesiastical clusters of the Middle Ages, were each and all 
vitalized by their separate distinctive ideas, ingrain'd in them, 
redeeming many sins, and indeed, in a sense, the principal reason- 
why for their whole career. 

Then, in the thought of nationality especially for the United 
States, and making them original, and different from all other 
countries, another point ever remains to be considered. There 
are two distinct principles — aye, paradoxes — at the life-fountain 
and life-continuation of the States; one, the sacred principle of 
the Union, the right of ensemble, at whatever sacrifice — and yet 
another, an equally sacred principle, the right of each State, 
consider'd as a separate sovereign individual, in its own sphere. 
Some go zealously for one set of these rights, and some as zeal- 
ously for the other set. We must have both ; or rather, bred out 
of them, as out of mother and father, a third set, the perennial 
result and combination of both, and neither jeopardized. I say 
the loss or abdication of one set, in the future, will be ruin to 


democracy just as much as the loss of the other set. The prob- 
lem is, to harmoniously adjust the two, and the play of the two. 
[Observe the lesson of the divinity of Nature, ever checking the 
excess of one law, by an opposite, or seemingly opposite law — 
generally the other side of the same law.] For the theory of this 
Republic is, not that the General government is the fountain of 
all life and power, dispensing it forth, around, and to the re- 
motest portions of our territory, but that the People are, repre- 
sented in both, underlying both the General and State govern- 
ments, and corisider'd just as well in their individualities and in 
their separate aggregates, or States, as consider'd in one vast 
aggregate, the Union. This was the original dual theory and 
foundation of the United States, as distinguish'd from the feudal 
and ecclesiastical single idea of monarchies and papacies, and 
the divine right of kings. (Kings have been of use, hitherto, as 
representing the idea of the identity of nations. But, to Ameri- 
can democracy, both ideas must be fufill'd, and in my opinion 
the loss of vitality of either one will indeed be the loss of vitality 
of the other.) 


In the regions we call Nature, towering beyond all measure- 
ment, with infinite spread, infinite depth and height — in those 
regions, including Man, socially and historically, with his moral- 
emotional influences — how small a part, (it came in my mind 
to-day,) has literature really depicted — even summing up all of 
it, all ages. Seems at its best some little fleet of boats, hugging 
the shores of a boundless sea, and never venturing, exploring the 
unmapp'd — never, Columbus-like, sailing out for New Worlds, 
and to complete the orb's rondure. Emerson writes frequently 
in the atmosphere of this thought, and his books report one or 
two things from that very ocean and air, and more legibly ad- 
dress'd to our age and American polity than by any man yet. 
But I will begin by scarifying him — thus proving that I am not 
insensible to his deepest lessons. I will consider his books from 
a democratic and western point of view. I will specify the 
shadows on these sunny expanses. Somebody has said of heroic 
character that u wherever the tallest peaks are present, must in- 
evitably be deep chasms and valleys." Mine be the ungracious 
task (for reasons) of leaving unmention'd both sunny expanses 
and sky-reaching heights, to dwell on the bare spots and dark- 
nesses. I have a theory that no artist or work of the very first 
class may be or can be without them. 

First, then, these pages are perhaps too perfect, too concen- 
trated. (How good, for instance, is good butter, good sugar. 



But to be eating nothing but sugar and butter all the time ! even 
if ever so good.) And though the author has much to say of 
freedom and wildness and simplicity and spontaneity, no per- 
formance was ever more based on artificial scholarships and de- 
corums at third or fourth removes, (he calls it culture,) and built 
up from them. It is always a make, never an unconscious growth. 
It is the porcelain figure or statuette of lion, or stag, or Indian 
hunter — and a very choice statuette too — appropriate for the rose- 
wood or marble bracket of parlor or library; never the animal 
itself, or the hunter himself. Indeed, who wants the real animal or 
hunter? What would that do amid astral and bric-a-brac and 
tapestry, and ladies and gentlemen talking in subdued tones of 
Browning and Longfellow and art? The least suspicion of such 
actual bull, or Indian, or of Nature carrying out itself, would put 
all those good people to instant terror and flight. 

Emerson, in my opinion, is not most eminent as poet or 
artist or teacher, though valuable in all those. He is best as 
critic, or diagnoser. Not passion or imagination or warp or weak- 
ness, or any pronounced cause or specialty, dominates him. Cold 
and bloodless intellectuality dominates him. (I know the fires, 
emotions, love, egotisms, glow deep, perennial, as in all New 
Englanders — but the fagade hides them well — they give no sign.) 
He does not see or take one side, one presentation only or mainly, 
(as all the poets, or most of the fine writers anyhow) — he sees 
all sides. His final influence is to make his students cease to 
worship anything — almost cease to believe in anything, outside 
of themselves. These books will fill, and well fill, certain 
stretches of life, certain stages of development — are, (like the 
tenets or theology the author of them preach'd when a young 
man,) unspeakably serviceable and precious as a stage. But in 
old or nervous or solemnest or dying hours, when one needs the 
impalpably soothing and vitalizing influences of abysmic Nature, 
or its affinities in literature or human society, and the soul re- 
sents the keenest mere intellection, they will not be sought for. 

For a philosopher, Emerson possesses a singularly dandified 
theory of manners. He seems to have no notion at all that man- 
ners are simply the signs by which the chemist or metallurgist 
knows his metals. To the profound scientist, all metals are pro- 
found, as they really are. The little one, like the conventional 
world, will make much of gold and silver only. Then to the 
real artist in humanity, what are called bad manners are often 
the most picturesque and significant of all. Suppose these books 
becoming absorb'd, the permanent chyle of American general 
and particular character — what a well-wash'd and grammatical, 
but bloodless and helpless, race we should turn out ! No, no, 


dear friend ; though the States want scholars, undoubtedly, and 
perhaps want ladies and gentlemen who use the bath frequently, 
and never laugh loud, or talk wrong, they don't want scholars, 
or ladies and gentlemen, at the expense of all the rest. They 
want good farmers, sailors, mechanics, clerks, citizens — perfect 
business and social relations — perfect fathers and mothers. If we 
could only have these, or their approximations, plenty of them, 
fine and large and sane and generous and patriotic, they might 
make their verbs disagree from their nominatives, and laugh like 
volleys of musketeers, if they should please. Of course these 
are not all America wants, but they are first of all to be provided 
on a large scale. And, with tremendous errors and escapades, 
this, substantially, is what the States seem to have an intuition 
of, and to be mainly aiming at. The plan of a select class, su- 
perfined, (demarcated from the rest,) the plan of Old World 
lands and literatures, is not so objectionable in itself, but because 
it chokes the true plan for us, and indeed is death to it. As to 
such special class, the United States can never produce any equal 
to the splendid show, (far, far beyond comparison or competi- 
tion here,) of the principal European nations, both in the past 
and at the present day. But an immense and distinctive com- 
monalty over our vast and varied area, west and east, south and 
north — in fact, for the first time in history, a great, aggregated, 
real People, worthy the name, and made of develop'd heroic 
individuals, both sexes — is America's principal, perhaps only, 
reason for being. If ever accomplish'd, it will be at least as 
much, (I lately think, doubly as much,) the result of fitting and 
democratic sociologies, literatures and arts — if we ever get them — 
as of our democratic politics. 

At times it has been doubtful to me if Emerson really knows 
or feels what Poetry is at its highest, as in the Bible, for instance, 
or Homer or Shakspere. I see he covertly or plainly likes best 
superb verbal polish, or something old or odd — Waller's " Go, 
lovely rose," or Lovelace's lines " to Lucusta " — the quaint con- 
ceits of the old French bards, and the like. Of power he seems 
to have a gentleman's admiration — but in his inmost heart the 
grandest attributes of God and Poets is always subordinate to the 
octaves, conceits, polite kinks, and verbs. 

The reminiscence that years ago I began like most youngsters 
to have a touch (though it came late, and was only on the sur- 
face) of Emerson-on-the-brain — that I read his writings rever- 
ently, and address'd him in print as " Master," and for a month 
or so thought of him as such— I retain not only with composure, 
but positive satisfaction. I have noticed that most young people 
of eager minds pass through this stage of exercise. 


The best part of Emersonianism is, it breeds the giant that 
destroys itself. Who wants to be any man's mere follower? lurks 
behind every page. No teacher ever taught, that has so provided 
for his pupil's setting up independently — no truer evolutionist. 


A Dialogue — One party says — We arrange our lives — even the 
best and boldest men and women that exist, just as much as the 
most limited — with reference to what society conventionally 
rules and makes right. We retire to our rooms for freedom ; to 
undress, bathe, unloose everything in freedom. These, and 
much else, would not be proper in society. 

Other party answers — Such is the rule of society. Not always 
so, and considerable exceptions still exist. However, it must be 
called the general rule, sanction'd by immemorial usage, and 
will probably always remain so. 

First party — Why not, then, respect it in your poems? 

Answer — One reason, and to me a profound one, is that the 
soul of a man or woman demands, enjoys compensation in the 
highest directions for this very restraint of himself or herself, 
level'd to the average, or rather mean, low, however eternally 
practical, requirements of society's intercourse. To balance this 
indispensable abnegation, the free minds of poets relieve them- 
selves, and strengthen and enrich mankind with free flights in 
all the directions not tolerated by ordinary society. 

First party — But must not outrage or give offence to it. 

Ansiuer — No, not in the deepest sense — and do not, and can- 
not. The vast averages of time and the race en masse settle these 
things. Only understand that the conventional standards and 
laws proper enough for ordinary society apply neither to the ac- 
tion of the soul, nor its poets. In fact the latter know no laws 
but the laws of themselves, planted in them by God, and are 
themselves the last standards of the law, and its final exponents 
— responsible to Him directly, and not at all to mere etiquette. 
Often the best service that can be done to the race, is to lift the 
veil, at least for a time, from these rules and fossil-etiquettes. 

New Poetry — Calif ortiia, Canada, Texas — In my opinion the 
time has arrived to essentially break down the barriers of form 
between prose and poetry. I say the latter is henceforth to win 
and maintain its character regardless of rhyme, and the measure- 
ment-rules of iambic, spondee, dactyl, &c, and that even if 
rhyme and those measurements continue to furnish the medium 
for inferior writers and themes, (especially for persiflage and the 
comic, as there seems henceforward, to the perfect taste, some- 
thing inevitably comic in rhyme, merely in itself, and anyhow,) 


the truest and greatest Poetry, (while subtly and necessarily always 
rhythmic, and distinguishable easily enough,) can never again, 
in the English language, be express'd in arbitrary and rhyming 
metre, any more than the greatest eloquence, or the truest power 
and passion. While admitting that the venerable and heavenly 
forms of chiming versification have in their time play'd great 
and fitting parts — that the pensive complaint, the ballads, wars, 
amours, legends of Europe, &c, have, many of them, been 
inimitably render'd in rhyming verse — that there have been very 
illustrious poets whose shapes the mantle of such verse has beau- 
tifully and appropriately envelopt — and though the mantle has 
fallen, with perhaps added beauty, on some of our own age — it 
is, notwithstanding, certain to me, that the day of such conven- 
tional rhyme is ended. In America, at any rate, and as a medium 
of highest aesthetic practical or spiritual expression, present or 
future, it palpably fails, and must fail, to serve. The Muse of 
the Prairies, of California, Canada, Texas, and of the peaks of 
Colorado, dismissing the literary, as well as social etiquette of 
over-sea feudalism and caste, joyfully enlarging, adapting itself 
to comprehend the size of the whole people, with the free play, 
emotions, pride, passions, experiences, that belong to them, body 
and soul — to the general globe, and all its relations in astronomy, as 
the savans portray them to us — to the modern, the busy Nineteenth 
century, (as grandly poetic as any, only different,) with steam- 
ships, railroads, factories, electric telegraphs, cylinder presses — 
to the thought of the solidarity of nations, the brotherhood and 
sisterhood of the entire earth — to the dignity and heroism of the 
practical labor of farms, factories, foundries, workshops, mines, 
or on shipboard, or on lakes and rivers — resumes that other me- 
dium of expression, more flexible, more eligible — soars to the 
freer, vast, diviner heaven of prose. 

Of poems of the third or fourth class, (perhaps even some of 
the second,) it makes little or no difference who writes them — 
they are good enough for what they are ; nor is it necessary that 
they should be actual emanations from the personality and life 
of the writers. The very reverse sometimes gives piquancy. 
But poems of the first class, (poems of the depth, as distinguished 
from those of the surface,) are to be sternly tallied with the poets 
themselves, and tried by them and their lives. Who wants a 
glorification of courage and manly defiance from a coward or a 
sneak ? — a ballad of benevolence or chastity from some rhym- 
ing hunks, or lascivious, glib roue ? 

In these States, beyond all precedent, poetry will have to do 
with actual facts, with the concrete States, and — for we have not 
much more than begun — with the definitive getting into shape 

3 2 4 


of the Union. Indeed I sometimes think it alone is to define the 
Union, (namely, to give it artistic character, spirituality, dignity.) 
What American humanity is most in danger of is an overwhelm- 
ing prosperity, ''business" worldliness, materialism: what is 
most lacking, east, west, north, south, is a fervid and glowing 
Nationality and patriotism, cohering all the parts into one. 
Who may fend that danger, and fill that lack in the future, but a 
class of loftiest poets? 

If the United States havn't grown poets, on any scale of gran- 
deur, it is certain they import, print, and read more poetry than 
any equal number of people elsewhere — probably more than all 
the rest of the world combined. 

Poetry (like a grand personality) is a growth of many genera- 
tions — many rare combinations. 

To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too. 


To avoid mistake, I would say that I not only commend the 
study of this literature, but wish our sources of supply and com- 
parison vastly enlarged. American students may well derive 
from all former lands — from forenoon Greece and Rome, down 
to the perturb'd medieval times, the Crusades, and so to Italy, 
the German intellect — all the older literatures, and all the newer 
ones — from witty and warlike France, and markedly, and in 
many ways, and at many different periods, from the enterprise 
and soul of the great Spanish race — bearing ourselves always 
courteous, always deferential, indebted beyond measure to the 
mother-world, to all its nations dead, as all its nations living — 
the offspring, this America of ours, the daughter, not by any 
means of the British isles exclusively, but of the continent, and 
all continents. Indeed, it is time we should realize and fully 
fructify those germs we also hold from Italy, France, Spain, 
especially in the best imaginative productions of those lands, 
which are, in many ways, loftier and subtler than the English, or 
British, and indispensable to complete our service, proportions, 
education, reminiscences, &c. . . . The British element these 
States hold, and have always held, enormously beyond its fit 
proportions. I have already spoken of Shakspere. He seems to 
me of astral genius, first class, entirely fit for feudalism. His 
contributions, especially to the literature of the passions, are im- 
mense, forever dear to humanity — and his name is always to be 
reverenced in America. But there is much in him ever offen- 
sive to democracy. He is not only the tally of feudalism, but I 
should say Shakspere is incarnated, uncompromising feudalism, 
in literature. Then one seems to detect something in him — I 


hardly know how to describe it — even amid the dazzle of his 
genius; and, in inferior manifestations, it is found in nearly all 
leading British authors. (Perhaps we will have to import the 
words Snob, Snobbish, &c, after all.) While of the great poems 
of Asian antiquity, the Indian epics, the book of Job, the Ionian 
Iliad, the unsurpassedly simple, loving, perfect idyls of the life 
and death of Christ, in the New Testament, (indeed Homer and 
the Biblical utterances intertwine familiarly with us, in the main,) 
and along down, of most of the characteristic, imaginative or ro- 
mantic relics of the continent, as the Cid, Cervantes' Don Quixote, 
&c, I should say they substantially adjust themselves to us, and, 
far off as they are, accord curiously with our bed and board to- 
day, in New York, Washington, Canada, Ohio, Texas, California 
— and with our notions, both of seriousness and of fun, and our 
standards of heroism, manliness, and even the democratic require- 
ments — those requirements are not only not fulfilled in the 
Shaksperean productions, but are insulted on every page. 

I add that — while England is among the greatest of lands in 
political freedom, or the idea of it, and in stalwart personal char- 
acter, &c. — the spirit of English literature is not great, at least is 
not greatest — and its products are no models for us. With the 
exception of Shakspere, there is no first-class genius in that litera- 
ture — which, with a truly vast amount of value, and of artificial 
beauty, (largely from the classics,) is almost always material, sen- 
sual, not spiritual — almost always congests, makes plethoric, not 
frees, expands, dilates — is cold, anti-democratic, loves to be 
sluggish and stately, and shows much of that characteristic of 
vulgar persons, the dread of saying or doing something not at all 
improper in itself, but unconventional, and that may be laugh'd 
at. In its best, the sombre pervades it ; it is moody, melancholy, 
and, to give it its due, expresses, in characters and plots, those 
qualities, in an unrival'd manner. Yet not as the black thunder- 
storms, and in great normal, crashing passions, of the Greek 
dramatists — clearing the air, refreshing afterward, bracing with 
power; but as in Hamlet, moping, sick, uncertain, and leaving 
ever after a secret taste for the blues, the morbid fascination, the 
luxury of wo. . . . 

I strongly recommend all the young men and young women 
of the United States to whom it may be eligible, to overhaul the 
well-freighted fleets, the literatures of Italy, Spain, France, Ger- 
many, so full of those elements of freedom, self-possession, gay- 
heartedness, subtlety, dilation, needed in preparations for the 
future of the States. I only wish we could have really good 
translations. I rejoice at the feeling for Oriental researches and 
poetry, and hope it will go on. 


Running through prehistoric ages — coming down from them 
into the daybreak of our records, founding theology, suffusing 
literature, and so brought onward — (a sort of verteber and mar- 
row to all the antique races and lands, Egypt, India, Greece, 
Rome, the Chinese, the Jews, &c, and giving cast and complexion 
to their art, poems, and their politics as well as ecclesiasticism, 
all of which we more or less inherit,) appear those venerable 
claims to origin from God himself, or from gods and goddesses 
— ancestry from divine beings of vaster beauty, size, and power 
than ours. But in current and latest times, the theory of human 
origin that seems to have most made its mark, (curiously revers- 
ing the antique,) is that we have come on, originated, developt, 
from monkeys, baboons — a theory more significant perhaps in its 
indirections, or what it necessitates, than it is even in itself. 
(Of the twain, far apart as they seem, and angrily as their con- 
flicting advocates to-day oppose each other, are not both theories 
to be possibly reconciled, and even blended ? Can we, indeed, 
spare either of them? Better still, out of them is not a third 
theory, the real one, or suggesting the real one, to arise?) 

Of this old theory, evolution, as broach'd anew, trebled, with 
indeed all-devouring claims, by Darwin, it has so much in it, and 
is so needed as a counterpoise to yet widely prevailing and un- 
speakably tenacious, enfeebling superstitions — is fused, by the 
new man, into such grand, modest, truly scientific accompani- 
ments — that the world of erudition, both moral and physical, 
cannot but be eventually better'd and broaden'd in its specu- 
lations, from the advent of Darwinism. Nevertheless, the prob- 
lem of origins, human and other, is not the least whit nearer its 
solution. In due time the Evolution theory will have to abate 
its vehemence, cannot be allow' d to dominate every thing else, 
and will have to take its place as a segment of the circle, the 
cluster — as but one of many theories, many thoughts, of profound- 
est value — and re-adjusting and differentiating much, yet leaving 
the divine secrets just as inexplicable and unreachable as before 
— may-be more so. 

Then furthermore — What is finally to be done by priest or 
poet — and by priest or poet only — amid all the stupendous and 
dazzling novelties of our century, with the advent of America, 
and of science and democracy — remains just as indispensable, 
after all the work of the grand astronomers, chemists, linguists, 
historians, and explorers of the last hundred years — and the won- 
drous German and other metaphysicians of that time — and will 
continue to remain, needed, America and here, just the same as 
in the world of Europe, or Asia, of a hundred, or a thousand, or 


several thousand years ago. I think indeed more needed, to furnish 
statements from the present points, the added arriere, and the 
unspeakably immenser vistas of to-day. Only the priests and 
poets of the modern, at least as exalted as any in the past, fully 
absorbing and appreciating the results of the past, in the com- 
monalty of all humanity, all time, (the main results already, for 
there is perhaps nothing more, or at any rate not much, strictly 
new, only more important modern combinations, and new rela- 
tive adjustments,) must indeed recast the old metal, the already 
achiev'd material, into and through new moulds, current forms. 
Meantime, the highest and subtlest and broadest truths of 
modern science wait for their true assignment and last vivid 
flashes of light — as Democracy waits for it's — through first-class 
metaphysicians and speculative philosophs — laying the basements 
and foundations for those new, more expanded, more harmonious, 
more melodious, freer American poems. 


I have myself little or no hope from what is technically called 
u Society " in our American cities. New York, of which place 
I have spoken so sharply, still promises something, in time, out 
of its tremendous and varied materials, with a certain superiority 
of intuitions, and the advantage of constant agitation, and ever 
new and rapid dealings of the cards. Of Boston, with its circles 
of social mummies, swathed in cerements harder than brass — its 
bloodless religion, (Unitarianism,) its complacent vanity of sci- 
entism and literature, lots of grammatical correctness, mere knowl- 
edge, (always wearisome, in itself) — its zealous abstractions, 
ghosts of reforms — I should say, (ever admitting its business 
powers, its sharp, almost demoniac, intellect, and no lack, in its 
own way, of courage and generosity) — there is, at present, little 
of cheering, satisfying sign. In the West, California, &c, "so- 
ciety" is yet unform'd, puerile, seemingly unconscious of any- 
thing above a driving business, or to liberally spend the money 
made by it, in the usual rounds and shows. 

Then there is, to the humorous observer of American attempts 
at fashion, according to the models of foreign courts and saloons, 
quite a comic side — particularly visible at Washington city — a 
sort of high-life-below-stairs business. As if any farce could be 
funnier, for instance, than the scenes of the crowds, winter nights, 
meandering around our Presidents and their wives, cabinet offi- 
cers, western or other Senators, Representatives, &c. ; born of 
good laboring mechanic or farmer stock and antecedents, at- 
tempting those full-dress receptions, finesse of parlors, foreign 
ceremonies, etiquettes, &c. 


Indeed, consider'd with any sense of propriety, or any sense at 
all, the whole of this illy-play'd fashionable play and display, 
with their absorption of the best part of our wealthier citizens' 
time, money, energies, &c, is ridiculously out of place in the 
United States. As if our proper man and woman, (far, far greater 
words than "gentleman" and "lady,") could still fail to see, 
and presently achieve, not this spectral business, but something 
truly noble, active, sane, American — by modes, perfections of 
character, manners, costumes, social relations, &c, adjusted to 
standards, far, far different from those. 

Eminent and liberal foreigners, British or continental, must at 
times have their faith fearfully tried by what they see of our New 
World personalities. The shallowest and least American persons 
seem surest to push abroad, and call without fail on well-known 
foreigners, who are doubtless affected with indescribable qualms 
by these queer ones. Then, more than half of our authors and 
writers evidently think it a great thing to be " aristocratic," and 
sneer at progress, democracy, revolution, &c. If some interna- 
tional literary snobs' gallery were established, it is certain that 
America could contribute at least her full share of the portraits, 
and some very distinguish'd ones. Observe that the most impu- 
dent slanders, low insults, &c, on the great revolutionary authors, 
leaders, poets, &c, of Europe, have their origin and main circu- 
lation in certain circles here. The treatment of Victor Hugo liv- 
ing, and Byron dead, are samples. Both deserving so well of 
America, and both persistently attempted to be soil'd here by un- 
clean birds, male and female. 

Meanwhile I must still offset the like of the foregoing, and all 
it infers, by the recognition of the fact, that while the surfaces of 
current society here show so much that is dismal, noisome, and 
vapory, there are, beyond question, inexhaustible supplies, as of 
true gold ore, in the mines of America's general humanity. Let 
us, not ignoring the dross, give fit stress to these precious immor- 
tal values also. Let it be distinctly admitted, that — whatever 
may be said of our fashionable society, and of any foul fractions 
and episodes — only here in America, out of the .long history and 
manifold presentations of the ages, has at last arisen, and now 
stands, what never before took positive form and sway, the People 
— and that vievv'd en masse, and while fully acknowledging defi- 
ciencies, dangers, faults, this people, inchoate, latent, not yet 
come to majority, nor to its own religious, literary, or aesthetic 
expression, yet affords, to-day, an exultant justification of all the 
faith, all the hopes and prayers and prophecies of good men 
through the past — the stablest, solidest-based government of the 
world — the most assured in a future — the beaming Pharos to whose 


perennial light all earnest eyes, the world over, are tending — 
and that already, in and from it, the democratic principle, hav- 
ing been mortally tried by severest tests, fatalities of war and 
peace, now issues from the trial, unharm'd, trebly-invigorated, 
perhaps to commence forthwith its finally triumphant march 
around the globe. 


Part of a Lecture proposed, {never delivered.) 

Two grim and spectral dangers— dangerous to peace, to health, 
to social security, to progress — long known in concrete to the gov- 
ernments of the Old World, and there eventuating, more than 
once or twice, in dynastic overturns, bloodshed, days, months, 
of terror — seem of late years to be nearing the New World, nay, 
to be gradually establishing themselves among us. What mean 
these phantoms here? (I personify them in fictitious shapes, but 
they are very real.) Is the fresh and broad demesne of America 
destined also to give them foothold and lodgment, permanent 

Beneath the whole political world, what' most presses and per- 
plexes to-day, sending vastest results affecting the future, is not 
the abstract question of democracy, but of social and economic 
organization, the treatment of working-people by employers, and 
all that goes along with it — not only the wages-payment part, but 
a certain spirit and principle, to vivify anew these relations; all 
the questions of progress, strength, tariffs, finance, &c, really 
evolving themselves more or less directly out of the Poverty 
Question, (" the Science of Wealth," and a dozen other names 
are given it, but I prefer the severe one just used.) I will begin 
by calling the reader's attention to a thought upon the matter 
which may not have struck you before — the wealth of the civil- 
ized world, as contrasted with its poverty — what does it deriva- 
tively stand for, and represent? A rich person ought to have a 
strong stomach. As in Europe the wealth of to-day mainly results 
from, and represents, the rapine, murder, outrages, treachery, hog- 
gishness, of hundreds of years ago, and onward, later, so in Amer- 
ica, after the same token — (not yet so bad, perhaps, or at any 
rate not so palpable — we have not existed long enough — but we 
seem to be doing our best to make it up.) 

Curious as it may seem, it is in what are call'd the poorest, 
lowest characters you will sometimes, nay generally, find glints 
of the most sublime virtues, eligibilities, heroisms. Then it is 
doubtful whether the State is to be saved, either in the monoto- 
nous long run, or in tremendous special crises, by its good people 
only. When the storm is deadliest, and the disease most immi- 



nent, help often comes from strange quarters — (the homoeopathic 
motto, you remember, cure the bite with a hair of the same dog.) 

The American Revolution of 1776 was simply a great strike, 
successful for its immediate object — but whether a real success 
judged by the scale of the centuries, and the long-striking bal- 
ance of Time, yet remains to be settled. The French Revolu- 
tion was absolutely a strike, and a very terrible and relentless 
one, against ages of bad pay, unjust division of wealth-products, 
and the hoggish monopoly of a few, rolling in superfluity, against 
the vast bulk of the work-people, living in squalor. 

If the United States, like the countries of the Old World, are 
also to grow vast crops of poor, desperate, dissatisfied, nomadic, 
miserably-waged populations, such as we see looming upon us of 
late years — steadily, even if slowly, eating into them like a cancer 
of lungs or stomach — then our republican experiment, notwith- 
standing all its surface-successes, is at heart an unhealthy failure. 

Feb., '/p. — I saw to-day a sight I had never seen before — and 
it amazed, and made me serious; three quite good-looking 
American men, of respectable personal presence, two of them 
young, carrying chiffonier-bags on their shoulders, and the usual 
long iron hooks in their hands, plodding along, their eyes cast 
down, spying for scraps, rags, bones, &c. 


estimated and summ'd-up to-day, having thoroughly justified 
itself the past hundred years, (as far as growth, vitality and power 
are concern'd,) by severest and most varied trials of peace and 
war, and having established itself for good, with all its necessities 
and benefits, for time to come, is now to be seriously consider'd 
also in its pronounc'd and already developt dangers. While the 
battle was raging, and the result suspended, all defections and 
criticisms were to be hush'd, and everything bent with vehe- 
mence unmitigated toward the urge of victory. But that victory 
settled, new responsibilities advance. I can conceive of no better 
service in the United States, henceforth, by democrats of thorough 
and heart-felt faith, than boldly exposing the weakness, liabilities 
and infinite corruptions of democracy. By the unprecedented 
opening-up of humanity en-masse in the United States, the last 
hundred years, under our institutions, not only the good qualities 
of the race, but just as much the bad ones, are prominently 
brought forward. Man is about the same, in the main, whether 
with despotism, or whether with freedom. 

" The ideal form of human society," Canon Kingsley declares, 
" is democracy. A nation — and were it even possible, a whole 
world — of free men, lifting free foreheads to God and Nature; 


calling no man master, for One is their master, even God ; know- 
ing and doing their duties toward the Maker of the universe, 
and therefore to each other ; not from fear, nor calculation of 
profit or loss, but because they have seen the beauty of righteous- 
ness, and trust, and peace ; because the law of God is in their 
hearts. Such a nation — such a society — what nobler conception 
of moral existence can we form ? Would not that, indeed, be 
the kingdom of God come ,on earth?" 

To this faith, founded in the ideal, let us hold — and never 
abandon or lose it. Then what a spectacle is practically exhib- 
ited by our American democracy to-day ! 

Though I think I fully comprehend the absence of moral tone in 
our current politics and business, and the almost entire futility of 
absolute and simple honor as a counterpoise against the enormous 
greed for worldly wealth, with the trickeries of gaining it, all 
through society our day, I still do not share the depression and 
despair on the subject which I find possessing many good people. 
The advent of America, the history of the past century, has been 
the first general aperture and opening-up to the average human 
commonalty, on the broadest scale, of the eligibilities to wealth 
and worldly success and eminence, and has been fully taken advan- 
tage of; and the example has spread hence, in ripples, to all na- 
tions. To these eligibilities — to this limitless aperture, the race 
has tended, en-masse, roaring and rushing and crude, and fiercely, 
turbidly hastening — and we have seen the first stages, and are 
now in the midst of the result of it all, so far. But there will 
certainly ensue other stages, and entirely different ones. In noth- 
ing is there more evolution than the American mind. Soon, it will 
be fully realized that ostensible wealth and money-making, show, 
luxury, &c, imperatively necessitate something beyond — namely, 
the sane, eternal moral and spiritual-esthetic attributes, elements. 
(We cannot have even that realization on any less terms than the 
price we are now paying for it.) Soon, it will be understood 
clearly, that the State cannot flourish, (nay, cannot exist,) with- 
out those elements. They will gradually enter into the chyle of 
sociology and literature. They will finally make the blood and 
brawn of the best American individualities of both sexes — and 
thus, with them, to a certainty, (through these very processes of 
to-day,) dominate the New World. 

It still remains doubtful to me whether these will ever secure, 
officially, the best wit and capacity — whether, through them, the 
first-class genius of America will ever personally appear in the 

33 2 


high political stations, the Presidency, Congress, the leading 
State offices, &c. Those offices, or the candidacy for them, ar- 
ranged, won, by caucusing, money, the favoritism or pecuniary 
interest of rings, the superior manipulation of the ins over the 
outs, or the outs over the ins, are, indeed, at best, the mere busi- 
ness agencies of the people, are useful as formulating, neither the 
best and highest, but the average of the public judgment, sense, 
justice, (or sometimes want of judgment, sense, justice.) We 
elect Presidents, Congressmen, &c, not so much to have them 
consider and decide for us, but as surest practical means of ex- 
pressing the will of majorities on mooted questions, measures, &c. 
As to general suffrage, after all, since we have gone so far, the 
more general it is, the better. I favor the widest opening of the 
doors. Let the ventilation and area be wide enough, and all is 
safe. We can never have a born penitentiary-bird, or panel-thief, 
or lowest gambling-hell or groggery keeper, for President — though 
such may not only emulate, but get, hjgh offices from localities — 
even from the proud and wealthy city of New York. 


The protectionists are fond of flashing to the public eye the 
glittering delusion of great money-results from manufactures, 
mines, artificial exports — so many millions from this source, and 
so many from that — such a seductive, unanswerable show — an im- 
mense revenue of annual cash from iron, cotton, woollen, leather 
goods, and a hundred other things, all bolstered up by " protec- 
tion." But the really important point of all is, into whose pockets 
does this plunder really go? It would be some excuse and satis- 
faction if even a fair proportion of it went to the masses of labor- 
ing-men — resulting in homesteads to such, men, women, chil- 
dren — myriads of actual homes in fee simple, in every State, (not 
the false glamour of the stunning wealth reported in the census, 
in the statistics, or tables in the newspapers,) but a fair division 
and generous average to those workmen and workwomen — that 
would be something. But the fact itself is nothing of the kind. 
The profits of " protection " go altogether to a few score select 
persons — who, by favors of Congress, State legislatures, the banks, 
and other special advantages, are forming a vulgar aristocracy, 
full as bad as anything in the British or European castes, of 
blood, or the dynasties there of the past. As Sismondi pointed 
out, the true prosperity of a nation is not in the great wealth of 
a special class, but is only to be really attain'd in having the bulk 
of the people provided with homes or land in fee simple. This 
may not be the best show, but it is the best reality. 



Though Nature maintains, and must prevail, there will always 
be plenty of people, and good people, who cannot, or think they 
cannofj see anything in that last, wisest, most envelop'd of pro- 
verbs, "Friendship rules the World." Modern society, in its 
largest vein, is essentially intellectual, infidelistic — secretly ad- 
mires, and depends most on, pure compulsion or science, its rule 
and sovereignty — is, in short, in "cultivated" quarters, deeply 

"Friendship," said Bonaparte, in one of his lightning-flashes 
of candid garrulity, " Friendship is but a name. I love no one 
— not even my brothers ; Joseph perhaps a little. Still, if I do 
love him, it is from habit, because he is the eldest of us. Duroc? 
Ay, him, if any one, I love in a sort — but why? He suits me; 
he is cool, undemonstrative, unfeeling — has no weak affections — 
never embraces any one — never weeps." 

I am not sure but the same analogy is to be applied, in cases, 
often seen, where, with an extra development and acuteness of 
the intellectual faculties, there is a mark'd absence of the spiritual, 
affectional, and sometimes, though more rarely, the highest 
aesthetic and moral elements of cognition. 

Of most foreign countries, small or large, from the remotest 
times known, down to our own, each has contributed after its 
kind, directly or indirectly, at least one great undying song, to 
help vitalize and increase the valor, wisdom, and elegance of 
humanity, from the points of view attain'd by it up to date. The 
stupendous epics of India, the holy Bible itself, the Homeric can- 
ticles, the Nibelungen, the Cid Campeador, the Inferno, Shak- 
spere's dramas of the passions and of the feudal lords, Burns's 
songs, Goethe's in Germany, Tennyson's poems in England, 
Victor Hugo's in France, and many more, are the widely various 
yet integral signs or land-marks, (in certain respects the highest 
set up by the human mind and soul, beyond science, invention, 
political amelioration, &c.,) narrating in subtlest, best ways, the 
long, long routes of history, and giving identity to the stages 
arrived at by aggregate humanity, and the conclusions assumed 
in its progressive and varied civilizations. . . . Where is America's 
art-rendering, in any thing like the spirit worthy of herself and 
the modern, to these characteristic immortal monuments? So 
far, our Democratic society, (estimating its various strata, in the 
mass, as one,) possesses nothing — nor have we contributed any 
characteristic music, the finest tie of nationality — to make up 
for that glowing, blood-throbbing, religious, social, emotional, 



artistic, indefinable, indescribably beautiful charm and hold 
which fused the separate parts of the old feudal societies together, 
in their wonderful interpenetration, in Europe and Asia, of love, 
belief, and loyalty, running one way like a living weft — and pic- 
turesque responsibility, duty, and blessedness, running like a 
warp the other way. (In the Southern States, under slavery, 
much of the same.) ... In coincidence, and as things now ex- 
ist in the States, what is more terrible, more alarming, than the 
total want of any such fusion and mutuality of love, belief, and 
rapport of interest, between the comparatively few successful 
rich, and the great masses of the unsuccessful, the poor ? As a 
mixed political and social question, is not this full of dark signifi- 
cance? Is it not worth considering as a problem and puzzle in 
our democracy — an indispensable want to be supplied ? 


In the talk (which I welcome) about the need of men of 
training, thoroughly school'd and experienced men, for states- 
men, I would present the following as an offset. It was written 
by me twenty years ago — and has been curiously verified since : 

I say no body of men are fit to make Presidents, Judges, and 
Generals, unless they themselves supply the best specimens of the 
same; and that supplying one or two such specimens illuminates 
the whole body for a thousand years. I expect to see the day 
when the like of the present personnel of the governments, Fed- 
eral, State, municipal, military, and naval, will be look'd upon 
with derision, and when qualified mechanics and young men will 
reach Congress and other official stations, sent in their working 
costumes, fresh from their benches and tools, and returning to 
them again with dignity. The young fellows must prepare to do 
credit to this destiny, for the stuff is in them. Nothing gives 
place, recollect, and never ought to give place, except to its 
clean superiors. There is more rude and undevelopt bravery, 
friendship, conscientiousness, clear-sightedness, and practical 
genius for any scope of action, even the broadest and highest, 
now among the American mechanics and young men, than in all 
the official persons in these States, legislative, executive, judicial, 
military, and naval, and more than among all the literary per- 
sons. I would be much pleased to see some heroic, shrewd, 
fully-inform'd, healthy-bodied, middle-aged, beard-faced Ameri- 
can blacksmith or boatman come down from the West across the 
Alleghanies, and walk into the Presidency, dress'd in a clean 
suit of working attire, and with the tan all over his face, breast, 
and arms ; I would certainly vote for that sort of man, possessing 
the due requirements, before any other candidate. 


(The facts of rank-and-file workingmcn, mechanics, Lincoln, 
Johnson, Grant, Garfield, brought forward from the masses and 
placed in the Presidency, and swaying its mighty powers with firm 
hand — really with more sway than any king in history, and with 
better capacity in using that sway — can we not see that these facts 
have bearings far, far beyond their political or party ones?) 

If you go to Europe, (to say nothing of Asia, more ancient 
and massive still,) you cannot stir without meeting venerable me- 
mentos — cathedrals, ruins of temples, castles, monuments of the 
great, statues and paintings, (far, far beyond anything America 
can ever expect to produce,) haunts of heroes long dead, saints, 
poets, divinities, with deepest associations of ages. But here, in 
the New World, while those we can never emulate, we have more 
than those to build, and far more greatly to build. (I am not 
sure but the day for conventional monuments, statues, memorials, 
&c, has pass'd away — and that they are henceforth superfluous 
and vulgar.) An enlarged general superior humanity, (partly in- 
deed resulting from those,) we are to build. European, Asiatic 
greatness are in the past. Vaster and subtler, America, combin- 
ing, justifying the past, yet works for a grander future, in living 
democratic forms. (Here too are indicated the paths for our 
national bards.) Other times, other lands, have had their mis- 
sions — Art, War, Ecclesiasticism, Literature, Discovery, Trade, 
Architecture, &c, &c. — but that grand future is the enclosing pur- 
port of the United States. 

How small were the best thoughts, poems, conclusions, except 
for a certain invariable resemblance and uniform standard in the 
final thoughts, theology, poems, &c, of all nations, all civiliza- 
tions, all centuries and times. Those precious legacies — accumu- 
lations ! They come to us from the far-off — from all eras, and 
all lands — from Egypt, and India, and Greece, and Rome — and 
along through the middle and later ages, in t£e grand monarchies 
of Europe — born under far different institutes and conditions 
from ours — but out of the insight and inspiration of the same old 
humanity — the same old heart and brain — the same old counte- 
nance yearningly, pensively, looking forth. What we have to do 
to-day is to receive them cheerfully, and to give them ensemble, 
and a modern American and democratic physiognomy. 

As is well known, story-telling was often with President Lin- 
coln a weapon which he employ' d with great skill. Very often 


he could not give a point-blank reply or comment — and these in- 
directions, (sometimes funny, but not always so, ) were probably the 
best responses possible. In the gloomiest period of the war, he had 
a call from a large delegation of bank presidents. In the talk after 
business was settled, one of the big Dons asked Mr. Lincoln if 
his confidence in the permanency of the Union was not begin- 
ning to be shaken — whereupon the homely President told a little 
story : " When I was a young man in Illinois, ' ' said he, " I boarded 
for a time with a deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night 
I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door, and I heard the 
deacon's voice exclaiming, ' Arise, Abraham ! the day of judg- 
ment has come !' I sprang from my bed and rushed to the win- 
dow, and saw the stars falling in great showers ; but looking back 
of them in the heavens I saw the grand old constellations, with 
which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. 
Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the 
Union now." 


It is not only true that most people entirely misunderstand 
Freedom, but I sometimes think I have not yet met one person 
who rightly understands it. The whole Universe is absolute Law. 
Freedom only opens entire activity and license under the law. 
To the degraded or undevelopt — and even to too many others — 
the thought of freedom is a thought of escaping from law — which, 
of course, is impossible. More precious than all worldly riches 
is Freedom — freedom from the painful constipation and poor 
narrowness of ecclesiasticism — freedom in manners, habiliments, 
furniture, from the silliness and tyranny of local fashions — entire 
freedom from party rings and mere conventions in Politics — and 
better than all, a general freedom of One's-Self from the tyran- 
nic domination of vices, habits, appetites, under which nearly 
every man of us, (often the greatest brawler for freedom,) is en- 
slaved. Can we attain such enfranchisement — the true Democ- 
racy, and the height of it ? While we are from birth to death 
the subjects of irresistible law, enclosing every movement and 
minute, we yet escape, by a paradox, into true free will. Strange 
as it may seem, we only attain to freedom by a knowledge of, and 
implicit obedience to, Law. Great — unspeakably great — is the 
Will ! the free Soul of man ! At its greatest, understanding and 
obeying the laws, it can then, and then only, maintain true lib- 
erty. For there is to the highest, that law as absolute as any — 
more absolute than any — the Law of Liberty. The shallow, as 
intimated, consider liberty a release from all law, from every 
constraint. The wise see in it, on the contrary, the potent Law 


of Laws, namely, the fusion and combination of the conscious 
will, or partial individual law, with those universal, eternal, un- 
conscious ones, which run through all Time, pervade history, 
prove immortality, give moral purpose to the entire objective 
world, and the last dignity to human life. 

For certain purposes, literary productions through all the re- 
corded ages may be roughly divided into two classes. The first 
consisting of only a score or two, perhaps less, of typical, pri- 
mal, representative works, different from any before, and embody- 
ing in themselves their own main laws and reasons for being. 
Then the second class, books and writings innumerable, inces- 
sant — to be briefly described as radiations or offshoots, or more 
or less imitations of the first. The works of the first class, as 
said, have their own laws, and may indeed be described as making 
those laws, and amenable only to them. The sharp warning of 
Margaret Fuller, unquell'd for thirty years, yet sounds in the air; 
11 It does not follow that because the United States print and read 
more books, magazines, and newspapers than all the rest of the 
world, that they really have, therefore, a literature." 


The final culmination of this vast and varied Republic will be 
the production and perennial establishment of millions of com- 
fortable city homesteads and moderate-sized farms, healthy and 
independent, single separate ownership, fee simple, life in them 
complete but cheap, within reach of all. Exceptional wealth, 
splendor, countless manufactures, excess of exports, immense 
capital and capitalists, the five-dollar-a-day hotels well fill'd, arti- 
ficial improvements, even books, colleges, and the suffrage — all, 
in many respects, in themselves, (hard as it is to say so, and sharp 
as a surgeon's lance,) form, more or less, a sort of anti-demo- 
cratic disease and monstrosity, except as they contribute by 
curious indirections to that culmination — seem to me mainly of 
value, or worth consideration, only with reference to it. 

There is a subtle something in the common earth, crops, cattle, 
air, trees, &c, and in having to do at first hand with them, that 
forms the only purifying and perennial element for individuals 
and for society. I must confess I want to see the agricultural oc- 
cupation of America at first hand permanently broaden'd. Its 
gains are the only ones on which God seems to smile. What 
others — what business, profit, wealth, without a taint? What 
fortune else — what dollar — does not stand for, and come from, 
more or less imposition, lying, unnaturalness? 




One of the problems presented in America these times is, how 
to combine one's duty and policy as a member of associations, 
societies, brotherhoods or what not, and one's obligations to the 
State and Nation, with essential freedom as an individual person- 
ality, without which freedom a man cannot grow or expand, or 
be full, modern, heroic, democratic, American. With all the ne- 
cessities and benefits of association, (and the world cannot get 
along without it,) the true nobility and satisfaction of a man 
consist in his thinking and acting for himself. The problem, I 
say, is to combine the two, so as not to ignore either. 

I like well our polyglot construction-stamp, and the retention 
thereof, in the broad, the tolerating, the many-sided, the collec- 
tive. All nations here — a home for every race on earth. British, 
German, Scandinavian, Spanish, French, Italian — papers pub- 
lished, plays acted, speeches made, in all languages — on our 
shores the crowning resultant of those distillations, decantations, 
compactions of humanity, that have been going on, on trial, over 
the earth so long. 

COLLECT. {Appendix) 



Like dough ; soft ; yielding to pressure ; pale. — Webster's Dictionary. 

We are all docile dough-faces, 

They knead us with the fist, 
They, the dashing southern lords, 

We labor as they list ; 
For them we speak — or hold our tongues, 

For them we turn and twist. 

We join them in their howl against 

Free soil and " abolition," 
That firebrand — that assassin knife — 

Which risk our land's condition, 
And leave no peace of life to any 

Dough-faced politician. 

To put down " agitation," now, 

We think the most judicious; 
To damn all " northern fanatics," 

Those "traitors" black and vicious; 
The " reg'lar party usages " 

For us, and no " new issues." 

Things have come to a pretty pass, 

When a trifle small as this, 
Moving and bartering nigger slaves, 

Can open an abyss, 
With jaws a-gape for " the two great parties ;" 

A pretty thought, I wis ! 

Principle — freedom ! — fiddlesticks ! 

We know not where they 're found. 
Rights of the masses — progress ! — bah ! 

Words that tickle and sound ; 
But claiming to rule o'er " practical men" 

Is very different ground. 

Beyond all such we know a term 

Charming to ears and eyes, 
With it we'll stab young Freedom, 

And do it in disguise; 
Speak soft, ye wily dough-faces — 

That term is " compromise." 

( 339 ) 

340 COLLECT— {Appendix). 

And what if children, growing up, 

In future seasons read 
The thing we do ? and heart and tongue 

Accurse us for the deed ? 
The future cannot touch us ; 

The present gain we heed. 

Then, all together, dough-faces ! 

Let's stop the exciting clatter, 
And pacify slave-breeding wrath 

By yielding all the matter ; 
For otherwise, as sure as guns, 

The Union it will shatter. 

Besides, to tell the honest truth 

(For us an innovation,) 
Keeping in with the slave power 

Is our personal salvation ; 
We 've very little to expect 

From t' other part of the nation. 

Besides it's plain at Washington 

Who likeliest wins the race, 
What earthly chance has " free soil " 

For any good fat place ? 
While many a daw has feather'd his nest, 

By his creamy and meek dough-face. 

Take heart, then, sweet companions, 

Be steady, Scripture Dick ! 
Webster, Cooper, Walker, 

To your allegiance stick ! 
With Brooks, and Briggs and Phoenix, 

Stand up through thin and thick ! 

We do not ask a bold brave front ; 

We never try that game ; 
'Twould bring the storm upon our heads, 

A huge mad storm of shame ; 
Evade it, brothers — " compromise " 

Will answer just the same. PAUMANOK. 

Ting-A-ling-ling-ling! went the little bell on the teacher's desk of a 
village-school one morning, when the studies of the earlier part of the day 
were about half completed. It was well understood that this was a command 
for silence and attention; and when these had been obtain'd, the master 
spoke. He was a low thick-set man, and his name was Lugare. 

" Boys," said he, " I have had a complaint enter'd, that last night some of 
you were stealing fruit from Mr. Nichols's garden. I rather think I know 
the thief. Tim Barker, step up here, sir." 

The one to whom he spoke came forward. He was a slight, fair-looking 
boy of about thirteen ; and his face had a laughing, good-humor'd expression, 



which even the charge now preferr'd against hiin, and the stern tone and 
threatening look of the teacher, had not entirely dissipated. The countenance 
of the boy, however, was too unearthly fair for healtn ; it had, notwithstand- 
ing its fleshy, cheerful look, a singular cast as if some inward disease, and 
that a fearful one, were seated within. As the stripling stood beiore that 
place of judgment — that place so often made the scene of heartless and coarse 
brutality, of timid innocence confused, helpless childhood outraged, and gen- 
tle feelings crush'd — Lugare looked on him with a frown which plainly told 
that he felt in no very pleasant mood. (Happily a worthier and more philo- 
sophical system is proving to men that schools can be better govern'd than 
by lashes and tears and sighs. We are waxing toward that consummation when 
one of the old-fashion'd school-masters, with his cowhide, his heavy birch- 
rod, and his many ingenious methods of child-torture, will be gazed upon as 
a scorn' d memento of an ignorant, cruel, and exploded doctrine. May pro- 
pitious gales speed that day!) 

"Were you by Mr. Nichols's garden-fence last night?" said Lugare. 

11 Yes, sir," answer'd the boy, " I was." 

" Well, sir, I'm glad to find you so ready with your confession. And so 
you thought you could do a little robbing, and enjoy yourself in a manner you 
ought to be ashamed to own, without being punish'd, did you?" 

" I have not been robbing," replied the boy quickly. His face was suf- 
fused, whether with resentment or fright, it was difficult to tell. " And I 
didn't do anything last night, that I am ashamed to own." 

" No impudence !" exclaim'd the teacher, passionately, as he grasp'd a long 
and heavy ratan : " give me none of your sharp speeches, or I'll thrash you 
till you beg like a dog." 

The youngster's face paled a little ; his lip quiver'd, but he did not speak. 

" And pray, sir," continued Lugare, as the outward signs of wrath disap- 
pear'd from his features; "what were you about the garden for? Perhaps 
you only receiv'd the plunder, and had an accomplice to do the more danger- 
ous part of the job ?" 

" I went that way because it is on my road home. I was there again after- 
wards to meet an acquaintance ; and — and — But I did not go into the gar- 
den, nor take anything away from it. I would not steal, — hardly to save my- 
self from starving." 

" You had better have stuck to that last evening. You were seen, Tim 
Barker, to come from under Mr. Nichols's garden-fence, a little after nine 
o'clock, with a bag full of something or other over your shoulders. The bag 
had every appearance of being filled with fruit, and this morning the melon- 
beds are found to have been completely clear'd. Now, sir, what was there in 
that bag?" 

Like fire itself glow'd the face of the detected lad. He spoke not a word. 
All the school had their eyes directed at him. The perspiration ran down 
his white forehead like rain-drops. 

♦'Speak, sir!" exclaimed Lugare, with a loud strike of his ratan on the 

The boy look'd as though he would faint. But the unmerciful teacher, con- 
fident of having broughtto light a criminal, and exulting in the idea of the 
severe chastisement he should now be justified in inflicting, kept working 
himself up to a still greater and greater degree of passion. In the meantime, 
the child seem'd hardlvto know what to do with himself. His tongue cleav'd 
to the roof of his mouth. Either he was very much frighten'd, or he was 
actually unwell. 

342 COLLECT— {Appendix). 

" Speak, I say !" again thunder'd Lugare ; and his hand, grasping his ratan 
tower d above his head in a very significant manner. 

" I hardly can, sir," said the poor fellow faintly. His voice was husky and 
thick. " I will tell you some — some other time. Please let me go to my seat 
—I a'n't well." 

" Oh yes; that's very likely;" and Mr. Lugare bulged out his nose and cheeks 
with contempt. "Do you think to make me believe your lies? I've found 
you out, sir, plainly enough ; and I am satisfied that you are as precious a lit- 
tle villain as there is in the State. But I will postpone settling with you for 
an hour yet. I shall then call you up again ; and if you don't tell the whole 
truth then, I will give you something that'll make you remember Mr. 
Nichols's melons for many a month to come : — go to your seat." 

Glad enough of the ungracious permission, and answering not a sound, the 
child crept tremblingly to his bench. He felt very strangely, dizzily— more 
as if he was in a dream than in real life ; and laying his arms on his desk, 
bow'd down his face between them. The pupils turn'd to their accustom'd 
studies, for during the reign of Lugare in the village-school, they had been so 
used to scenes of violence and severe chastisement, that such things made but 
little interruption in the tenor of their way. 

Now, while the intervening hour is passing, we will clear up the mystery 
of the bag, and of young Barker being under the garden fence on the preceding 
night. The boy's mother was a widow, and they both had to live in the very 
narrowest limits. His father had died when he was six years old, and little 
Tim was left a sickly emaciated infant whom no one expected to live many 
months. To the surprise of all, however, the poor child kept alive, and 
seem'd to recover his health, as he certainly did his size and good looks. 
This was owing to the kind offices of an eminent physician who had a country- 
seat in the neighborhood, and who had been interested in the widow's little 
family. Tim, the physician said, might possibly outgrow his disease ; but 
everything was uncertain. It was a mysterious and baffling malady ; and it 
would not be wonderful if he should in some moment of apparent health be 
suddenly taken away. The poor widow was at first in a continual state of 
uneasiness ; but several years had now pass'd, and none of the impending 
evils had fallen upon the boy's head. His mother seem'd to feel confident that 
he would live, and be a help and an honor to her old age ; and the two strug- 
gled on together, mutually happy in each other, and enduring much of poverty 
and discomfort without repining, each for the other's sake. 

Tim's pleasant disposition had made him many friends in the village, and 
among the rest a young farmer named Jones, who, with his elder brother, 
work'd a large farm in the neigborhood on shares. Jones very frequently 
made Tim a present of a bag of potatoes or corn, or some garden vegetables, 
which he took from his own stock ; but as his partner was a parsimonious, 
high-tempered man, and had often said that Tim was an idle fellow, and 
ought not to be help'd because he did not work, Jones generally made his 
gifts in such a manner that no one knew anything about them, except himself 
and the grateful objects of his kindness. It might be, too, that the widow was 
loth to have it understood by the neighbors that she received food from anyone ; 
for there is often an excusable pride in people of her condition which makes 
them shrink from being consider'd as objects of " charity " as they would from 
the severest pains. On the night in question, Tim had been told that Jones 
would send them a bag of potatoes, and the place at which they were to be 
waiting for him was fixed at Mr. Nichols's garden-fence. It was this bag 
that Tim had been seen staggering under, and which caused the unlucky boy 
to be accused and convicted by his teacher as a thief. That teacher was one 



little fitted for his important and responsible office. Hasty to decide, and in- 
flexibly severe, he was the terror of the little world he ruled so despotically. 
Punishment he seemed to delight in. Knowing little of those sweet fountains 
"which in children's breasts ever open quickly at the call of gentleness and 
kind words, he was fear'd by all for his sternness, and loved by none. I 
would that he were an isolated instance in his profession. 

The hour of grace had drawn to its close, and the time approach'd at which 
it was usual for Lugare to give his school a joyfully-receiv'd dismission. Now 
and then one of the scholars would direct a furtive glance at Tim, sometimes 
in pity, sometimes in indifference or inquiry. They knew that he would have 
no mercy shown him, and though most of them loved him, whipping was too 
common there to exact much sympathy. Every inquiring glance, however, 
remain'd unsatisfied, for at the end of the hour, Tim remain'd with his face 
completely hidden, and his head bovv'd in his arms, precisely as he had lean'd 
himself when he first went to his seat. Lugare look'd at the boy occasionally 
with a scowl which seem'd to bode vengeance for his sullenness. At length the 
last class had been heard, and the last lesson recited, and Lugare seated him- 
self behind his desk on the platform, with his longest and stoutest ratan before 

" Now, Barker," he said, " we'll settle that little business of yours. Just 
step up here." 

Tim did not move. The school-room was as still as the grave. Not a sound 
was to be heard, except occasionally a long-drawn breath. 

" Mind me, sir, or it will be the worse for you. Step up here, and takeoff 
your jacket!" 

The boy did not stir any more than if he had been of wood. Lugare shook 
with passion. He sat still a minute, as if considering the best way to wreak 
his vengeance. That minute, passed in death-like silence, was a fearful one to 
some of the children, for their faces whiten'd with fright. It seem'd, as it 
slowly dropp'd away, like the minute which precedes the climax of an ex- 
quisitely-performed tragedy, when some mighty master of the histrionic art is 
treading the stage, and you and the multitude around you are waiting, with 
stretch'd nerves and suspended breath, in expectation of the terrible catas- 

" Tim is asleep, sir," at length said one of the boys who sat near him. 
Lugare, at this intelligence, allow'd his features to relax from their expres- 
sion of savage anger into a smile, but that smile look'd more malignant if pos- 
sible, than his former scowls. It might be that he felt amused at the horror 
depicted on the faces of those about him; or it might be that he was gloating 
in pleasure on the way in which he intended to wake the slumberer. 

" Asleep ! are you, my young gentleman !" said he ; " let us see if we can't 
find something to tickle your eyes open. There's nothing like making the 
best of a bad case, boys. Tim, here, is determin'd not to be worried in his 
mind about a little flogging, for the thought of it can't even keep the little 
scoundrel awake." 

Lugare smiled again as he made the last observation. He grasp'd his ratan 
firmly, and descended from his seat. With light and stealthy steps he cross'd 
the room, and stood by the unlucky sleeper. The boy was still as unconscious 
of his impending punishment as ever. He might be dreaming some golden 
dream of youth and pleasure ; perhaps he was far away in the world of fancy, 
seeing scenes, and feeling delights, which cold reality never can bestow. 
Lugare lifted his ratan high over his head, and with the true and expert aim 
which he had acquired by long practice, brought it down on Tim's back with 
a force and whacking sound which seem'd sufficient to awake a freezing man 

344 COLLECT— {Appendix). 

in his last lethargy. Quick and fast, blow follow'd blow. Without waiting 
to see the effect of the first cut, the brutal wretch plied his instrument of tor- 
ture first on one side of the boy's back, and then on the other, and only 
stopped at the end of two or three minutes from very weariness. But still 
Tim show'd no signs of motion ; and as Lugare, provoked at his torpiditv, 
jerk'd away one of the child's arms, on which he had been leaning over the 
desk, his head dropp'd down on the board with a dull sound, and his face lay 
turn'd up and exposed to view. When Lugare saw it, he stood like one 
transfix'd by a basilisk. His countenance turn'd to a leaden whiteness; 
the ratan dropp'd from his grasp; and his eyes, stretch'd wide open, glared 
as at some monstrous spectacle of horror and death. The sweat started in 
great globules seemingly from every pore in his face ; his skinny lips contracted, 
and show'd his teeth; and when he at length stretch'd forth his arm, and with 
the end of one of his fingers touch'd the child's cheek, each limb quiver'd 
like the tongue of a snake; and his strength seemed as though it would 
momentarily fail him. The boy was dead. He had probably been so for 
some time, for his eyes were turn'd up, and his body was quite cold. Death 
was in the school-room, and Lugare had been flogging A corpse. 

— Democratic Review^ August, 1841. 


That section of Nassau street which runs into the great mart of New York 
brokers and stock-jobbers, has for a long time been much occupied by practi- 
tioners of the law. Tolerably well-known amid this class some years since, 
was Adam Covert, a middle-aged man of rather limited means, who, to tell 
the truth, gained more by trickery than he did in the legitimate and honorable 
exercise of his profession. He was a tall, bilious-faced widower; the father 
of two children ; and had lately been seeking to better his fortunes by a rich 
marriage. But somehow or other his wooing did not seem to thrive well, and, 
with perhaps one exception, the lawyer's prospects in the matrimonial way 
were hopelessly gloomy. 

Among the early clients of Mr. Covert had been a distant relative named 
Marsh, who, dying somewhat suddenly, left his son and daughter, and some 
little property, to the care of Covert, under a will drawn out by that gentleman 
himself. At no time caught without his eyes open, the cunning lawyer, aided 
by much sad confusion in the emergency which had caused his services to be 
called for, and disguising his object under a cloud of technicalities, inserted 
provisions in the will, giving himself an almost arbitrary control over the 
property and over those for whom it was designed. This control was even 
made to extend beyond the time when the children would arrive at mature 
age. The son, Philip, a spirited and high-temper'd fellow, had some time 
since pass'd that age. Esther, the girl, a plain, and somewhat devotional 
young woman, was in her nineteenth year. 

Having such power over his wards, Covert did not scruple openly to use his 
advantage, in pressing his claims as a suitor for Esther'* hand. Since the 
death of Marsh, the property he left, which had been in real estate, and was 
to be divided equally between the brother and sister, had risen to very consid- 
erable value ; and Esther's share was to a man in Covert's situation a prize 
very well worth seeking. All this time, while really owning a respectable 
income, the young orphans often felt the want of the smallest sum of money — 
and Esther, on Philip's account, was more than once driven to various con- 
trivances — the pawn-shop, sales of her own little luxuries, and the like, to 
furnish him with means. 



Though she had frequently shown her guardian unequivocal evidence of her 
aversion, Esther continued to suffer from his persecutions, until one day he 
proceeded farther and was more pressing than usual. She possess'd some of her 
brother's mettlesome temper, and gave him an abrupt and most decided refusal. 
With dignity, she exposed the baseness of his conduct, and forbade him ever 
again mentioning marriage to her. He retorted bitterly, vaunted his hold on 
her and Philip, and swore an oath that unless she became his wife, they should 
both thenceforward become penniless. Losing his habitual self-control in his 
exasperation, he even added insults such as woman never receives from any 
one deserving the name of man, and at his own convenience left the house. 
That day, Philip return'd to New York, after an absence of several weeks 
on the business of a mercantile house in whose employment he had lately 

Toward the latter part of the same afternoon, Mr. Covert was sitting in 
his office, in Nassau street, busily at work, when a knock at the door announc'd 
a visitor, and directly afterward young Marsh enter'd the room. His face 
exhibited a peculiar pallid appearance that did not strike Covert at all agreea- 
bly, and he call'd his clerk from an adjoining room, and gave him something 
to do at a desk near by. 

" I wish to see you alone, Mr. Covert, if convenient," said the new-comer. 

" We can talk quite well enough where we are," answer'd the lawyer; " in- 
deed, I don't know that I have any leisure to talk at all, for just now I am 
very much press'd with business." 

" But I must speak to you," rejoined Philip sternly, " at least I must say one 
thing, and that is, Mr. Covert, that you are a villain !" 

" Insolent!" exclaimed the lawyer, rising behind the table, and pointing to 
the door : " Do you see that, sir ! Let one minute longer find you the other 
side, or your feet may reach the landing by quicker method. Begone, sir?" 

Such a threat was the more harsh to Philip, for he had rather high-strung 
feelings of honor. He grew almost livid with suppress'd agitation. 

" I will see you again very soon," said he, in a low but distinct manner, his 
lips trembling as he spoke ; and left the office. 

The incidents of the rest of that pleasant summer day left little impression 
on the young man's mind. He roam'd to and fro without any object or desti- 
nation. Along South street and by Whitehall, he watch'd with curious eyes 
the movements of the shipping, and the loading and unloading of cargoes; 
and listen'd to the merry heave-yo of the sailors and stevedores. There are 
some minds upon which great excitement produces the singular effect of unit- 
ing two utterly inconsistent faculties — a sort of cold apathy, and a sharp sen- 
sitiveness to all that is going on at the same time. Philip's was one of this 
sort ; he noticed the various differences in the apparel of a gang of wharf- 
laborers — turn'd over in his brain whether they receiv'd wages enough to keep 
them comfortable, and their families also— and if they had families or not, 
which he tried to tell by their looks. In such petty reflections the daylight 
passed away. And all the while the master wish of Philip's thoughts was a 
desire to see the lawyer Covert. For what purpose he himself was by no 
means clear. 

Nightfall came at last. Still, however, the young man did not direct his 
steps homeward. He felt more calm, however, and entering an eating-house, 
order'd something for his supper, which, when it was brought to him, he 
merely tasted, and stroll'd forth again. There was a kind of gnawing sensa- 
tion of thirst within him yet, and as he pass'd a hotel, he bethought him that 
one little glass of spirits would perhaps be just the thing. He drank, and 
hour after hour wore away unconsciously; he drank not one glass, but three 

346 COLLECT— {Appendix). 

or four, and strong glasses they were to him, for he was habitually abstemi- 


It had been a hot day and evening, and when Philip, at an advanced period 
of the night, emerged from the bar-room into the street, he found that a 
thunderstorm had just commenced. He resolutely walk'd on, however, al- 
though at every step it grew more and more blustering. 

The rain now pour'd down a cataract; the shops were all shut; few of the 
street lamps were lighted; and there was little except the frequent flashes of 
lightning to show him his way. When about half the length of Chatham street, 
which lay in the direction he had to take, the momentary fury of the tempest 
forced him to turn aside into a sort of shelter form'd by the corners of the 
deep entrance to a Jew pawnbroker's shop there. He had hardly drawn him- 
self in as closely as possible, when the lightning reveal'd to him that the oppo- 
site corner of the nook was tenanted also. 

" A sharp rain, this," said the other occupant, who simultaneously beheld 

The voice sounded to the young man's ears a note which almost made him 
sober again. It was certainly the voice of Adam Covert. He made some 
commonplace reply, and waited for another flash of lightning to show him the 
stranger's face. It came, and he saw that his companion was indeed his 

Philip Marsh had drank deeply — (let us plead all that may be possible to 
you, stern moralist.) Upon his mind came swarming, and he could not drive 
them away, thoughts of all those insults his sister had told him of, and the 
bitter words Covert had spoken to her; he reflected, too, on the injuries Es- 
ther as well as himself had receiv'd, and were still likely to receive, at the 
hands of that bold, bad man ; how mean, selfish, and unprincipled was his 
character — what base and cruel advantages he had taken of many poor 
people, entangled in his power, and of how much wrong and suffering he had 
been the author, and might be again through future years. The very turmoil 
of the elements, the harsh roll of the thunder, the vindictive beating of the 
rain, and the fierce glare of the wild fluid that seem'd to riot in the ferocity of 
the storm around him, kindled a strange sympathetic fury in the young man's 
mind. Heaven itself (so deranged were his imaginations) appear'd to have 
provided a fitting scene and time for a deed of retribution, which to his dis- 
order'd passion half wore the semblance of a divine justice. He remember'd 
not the ready solution to be found in Covert's pressure of business, which had 
no doubt kept him later than usual ; but fancied some mysterious intent in the 
ordaining that he should be there, and that they two should meet at that un- 
timely hour. All this whirl of influence came over Philip with startling quick- 
ness at that horrid moment. He stepp'd to the side of his guardian. 

"Ho!" said he, "have we met so soon, Mr. Covert? You traitor to my 
dead father — robber of his children ! I fear to think on what I think now !" 

The lawyer's natural effrontery did not desert him. 

" Unless you'd like to spend a night in the watch-house, young gentleman," 
said he, after a short pause, " move on. Your father was a weak man, I re- 
member; as for his son, his own wicked heart is his worst foe. 1 have never 
done wrong to either — that I can say, and swear it !" 

" Insolent liar!" exclaimed Philip, his eye flashing out sparks of fire' in the 

Covert made no reply except a cool, contemptuous laugh, which stung the 
excited young man to double fury. He sprang upon the lawyer, and clutch'd 
him by the neckcloth. 

"Take it, then!" he cried hoarsely, for his throat was impeded by the 



fiendish rage which in that black hour possess'd him. " You are not fit to 
live !" 

He dragg'd his guardian to the earth and fell crushingly upon him, choking 
the shriek the poor victim but just began to utter. Then, with monstrous im- 
precations, he twisted a tight knot around the gasping creature's neck, drew 
a clasp knife from his pocket, and touching the spring, the long sharp blade, 
too eager for its bloody work, flew open. 

During the lull of the storm, the last strength of the prostrate man burst 
forth into one short loud cry of agony. At the same instant, the arm of the 
murderer thrust the blade, once, twice, thrice, deep in his enemy's bosom ! 
Not a minute had passed since that fatal exasperating laugh — but the deed was 
done, and the instinctive thought which came at once to the guilty one, was a 
thought of fear and escape. 

In the unearthly pause which follow'd, Philip's eyes gave one long search- 
ing sweep in every direction, above and around him. Above ! God of the 
all-seeing eye ! What, and who was that figure there ? 

"Forbear! In Jehovah's name forbear;" cried a shrill, but clear and 
melodious voice. 

It was as if some accusing spirit had come down to bear witness against 
the deed of blood. Leaning far out of an open window, appear' d a white 
draperied shape, its face possess' d of a wonderful youthful beauty. Long 
vivid glows of lightning gave Philip a full opportunity to see as clearly as 
though the sun had been shining at noonday. One hand of the figure was 
raised upward in a deprecating attitude, and his large bright black eyes bent 
down upon the scene below with an expression of horror and shrinking pain. 
Such heavenly looks, and the peculiar circumstance of the time, fill'd Philip's 
heart with awe. 

" Oh, if it is not yet too late," spoke the youth again, " spare him. In God's 
voice, I command, ' Thou shalt do no murder !' " 

The words rang like a knell in the ear of the terror-stricken and already 
remorseful Philip. Springing from the body, he gave a second glance up and 
down the walk, which was totally lonesome and deserted; then crossing into 
Reade street, he made his fearful way in a half state of stupor, half-bewilder- 
ment, by the nearest avenues to his home. 

When the corpse of the murder'd lawyer was found in the morning, and 
the officers of justice commenced their inquiry, suspicion immediately fell upon 
Philip, and he was arrested. The most rigorous search, however, brought to 
light nothing at all implicating the young man, except his visit to Covert's 
office the evening before, and his angry language there. That was by no means 
enough to fix so heavy a charge upon him. 

The second day afterward, the whole business came before the ordinary 
judicial tribunal, in order that Philip might be either committed for the crime, 
or discharged. The testimony of Mr. Covert's clerk stood alone. One of his 
employers, who, believing in his innocence, had deserted him not in this crisis, 
had provided him with the ablest criminal counsel in New York. The proof 
was declared entirely insufficient, and Philip was discharged. 

The crowded court-room made way for him as he came out ; hundreds of cu- 
rious looks fixed upon his features, and many a jibe pass'd upon him. But of 
all that arena of human faces, he saw only one— a sad, pale, black-eyed one, 
cowering in the centre of the rest. He had seen that face twice before — the 
first time as a warning spectre — the second time in prison, immediately after 
his arrest— now for the last time. This young stranger— the son of a scorn'd 
raC e — coming to the court-room to perform an unhappy duty, with the inten- 
tion of testifying to what he had seen, melted at the sight of Philip's bloodless 

348 COLLECT— {Appendix). 

cheek, and of his sister's convulsive sobs, and forbore witnessing against the 
murderer. Shall we applaud or condemn him ? Let every reader answer the 
question for himself. 

That afternoon Philip left New York. His friendly employer own'd a 
small farm some miles up the Hudson, and until the excitement of the affair 
was over, he advised the young man to go thither. Philip thankfully accepted 
the proposal, made a few preparations, took a hurried leave of Esther, and by 
nightfall was settled in his new abode. 

And how, think you, rested Philip Marsh that night? Rested indeed! O, 
if those who clamor so much for the halter and the scaffold to punish crime, 
could have seen that sight, they might have learn'd a lesson then! Four days 
had elapsed since he that lay tossing upon the bed there had slumber'd. Not the 
slightest intermission had come to his awaken'd and tensely strung sense, 
during those frightful days. 

Disturb'd waking dreams came to him, as he thought what he might do to 
gain his lost peace. Far, far away would he go ! The cold roll of the mur- 
der'd man's eye, as it turn'd up its last glance into his face — the shrill excla- 
mation of pain — all the unearthly vividness of the posture, motions, and looks 
of the dead — the warning voice from above — pursued him like tormenting 
furies, and were never absent from his mind, asleep or awake, that long weary 
night. Anything, any place, to escape such horrid companionship! He 
would travel inland — hire himself to do hard drudgery upon some farm — work 
incessantly through the wide summer days, and thus force nature to bestow 
oblivion upon his senses, at least a little while now and then. He would fly 
on, on, on, until amid different scenes and a new life, the old memories were 
rubb'd entirely out. He would fight bravely in himself for peace of mind. 
For peace he would labor and struggle — for peace he would pray! 

At length after a feverish slumber of some thirty or forty minutes, the un- 
happy youth, waking with a nervous start, rais'd himself in bed, and saw the 
blessed daylight beginning to dawn. He felt the sweat trickling down his 
naked breast; the sheet where he had lain was quite wet with it. Dragging 
himself wearily, he open'd the window. Ah ! that good morning air — how 
it refresh'd him — how he lean'd out, and drank in the fragrance of the blossoms 
below, and almost for the first time in his life felt how beautifully indeed God 
had made the earth, and that there was wonderful sweetness in mere existence. 
And amidst the thousand mute mouths and eloquent eyes, which appear' d as 
it were to look up and speak in every direction, he fancied so many invitations 
to come among them. Nut without effort, for he was very weak, he dress'd 
himself, and issued forth into the open air. 

Clouds of pale gold and transparent crimson draperied the eastern sky, but 
the sun, whose face gladden'd them into all that glory, was not yet above the 
horizon. It was a time and place of such rare, such Eden-like beauty ! Philip 
paused at the summit of an upward slope, and gazed around him. Some few 
miles off he could see a gleam of the Hudson river, and above it a spur of 
those rugged cliffs scatter'd along its western shores. Nearer by were culti- 
vated fields. The clover grew richly there, the young grain bent to the early 
breeze, and the air was filled with an intoxicating perfume. At his side was 
the large well-kept garden of his host, in which were many pretty flowers, 
grass plots, and a wide avenue of noble trees. As Philip gazed, the holy calm- 
ing power of Nature — the invisible spirit of so much beauty and so much in- 
nocence, melted into his soul. The disturb'd passions and the feverish conflict 
subsided. He even felt something like envied peace of mind — a sort of joy 
even in the presence of all the unmarr'd goodness. It was as fair to him, guilty 
though he had been, as to the purest of the pure. No accusing frowns show'd 


in the face of the flowers, or in the green shrubs, or the branches of the trees. 
They, more forgiving than mankind, and distinguishing not between the chil- 
dren of darkness and the children of light — they at least treated him with gen- 
tleness. Was he, then a being so accurs'd ? Involuntarily, he bent over a 
branch of red roses, and took them softly between his hands — those murderous, 
bloody hands ! But the red roses neither wither'd nor smell'd less fragrant! 
And as the young man kiss'd them, and dropp'd a tear upon them, it seem'd to 
him that he had found pity and sympathy from Heaven itself. 

Though against all the rules of story-writing, we continue our narrative of 
these mainly true incidents (for such they are,) no further. Only to say that 

the murderer soon departed for a new field of action — that he is still living 

and that this is but one of thousands of cases of unravel'd, unpunish'd crime 

left, not to the tribunals of man, but to a wider power and judgment. 


"She came to me last night, 
The floor gave back no tread." 

The story I am going to tell is a traditional reminiscence of a country place, 
in my rambles about which I have often passed the house, now unoccupied, 
and mostly in ruins, that was the scene of the transaction. I cannot, of course, 
convey to others that particular kind of influence which is derived from my 
being so familiar with the locality, and with the very people whose grand- 
fathers or fathers were contemporaries of the actors in the drama I shall tran- 
scribe. I must hardly expect, therefore, that to those who hear it thro' the 
medium of my pen, the narration will possess as life-like and interesting a 
character as it does to myself. 

On a large and fertile neck of land that juts out in the Sound, stretching to 
the east of New York city, there stood, in the latter part of the last century, 
an old-fashion'd country-residence. It had been built by one of the first set- 
tlers of this section of the New World ; and its occupant was originally owner 
of the extensive tract lying adjacent to his house, and pushing into the bosom 
of the salt waters. It was during the troubled times which mark'd our 
American Revolution that the incidents occurr'd which are the foundation of 
my story. Some time before the commencement of the war, the owner, whom 
I shall call Vanhome, was taken sick and died. For some time before his 
death he had lived a widower; and his only child, a lad of ten years old, was 
thus left an orphan. By his father's will this child was placed implicitly under 
the guardianship of an uncle, a middle-aged man, who had been of late a 
resident in the family. His care and interest, however, were needed but a 
little while — not two years elaps'd after the parents were laid away to their 
last repose before another grave had to be prepared for the son — the child who 
had been so haplessly deprived of their fostering care. 

The period now arrived when the great national convulsion burst forth. 
Sounds of strife and the clash of arms, and the angry voices of disputants, 
were borne along by the air, and week after week grew to still louder clamor. 
Families were divided ; adherents to the crown, and ardent upholders of the 
rebellion, were often found in the bosom of the same domestic circle. Van- 
home, the uncle spoken of as guardian to the young heir, was a man who 
lean'd to the stern, the high-handed and the severe. He soon became known 
among the most energetic of the loyalists. So decided were his sentiments 
that, leaving the estate which he had inherited from his brother and nephew, 
he join'd the forces of the British king. Thenceforward, whenever his old 

<5C0 COLLECT— {Appendix). 

neighbors heard of him, it was as being engaged in the crudest outrages, the 
boldest inroads, or the most determin'd attacks upon the army of his country- 
men or their peaceful settlements. 

Eight years brought the rebel States and their leaders to that glorious epoch 
when the last remnant of a monarch's rule was to leave their shores — when 
the last waving of the royal standard was to Mutter as it should be haul'd down 
from the staff, and its place fill'd by the proud testimonial of our warriors' 

Pleasantly over the autumn fields shone the November sun, when a horse- 
man, of somewhat military look, plodded slowly along the road that led to the 
old Vanhome farmhouse. There was nothing peculiar in his attire, unless it 
might be a red scarf which he wore tied round his waist. He was a dark- 
featured, sullen-eyed man; and as his glance was thrown restlessly to the 
right and left, his whole manner appear'd to be that of a person moving amid 
familiar and accustom'd scenes. Occasionally he stopp'd, and looking long 
and steadily at some object that attracted his attention, mutler'd to himself, 
like one in whose breast busy thoughts were moving. His course was evidently 
to the homestead itself, at which in due time he arrived. He dismounted, led 
his horse to the stables, and then, without knocking, though there were evident 
signs of occupancy around the building, the traveler made his entrance as com- 
posedly and boldly as though he were master of the whole establishment. 

Now the house being in a measure deserted for many years, and the suc- 
cessful termination of the strife rendering it probable that the Vanhome estate 
would be confiscated to the new government, an aged, poverty-stricken couple 
had been encouraged by the neighbors to take possession as tenants of the 
place. Their name was Gills ; and these people the traveler found upon his 
entrance were likely to be his host and hostess. Holding their right as they 
did by so slight a tenure, they ventur'd to offer no opposition when the stranger 
signified his intention of passing several hours there. 

The day wore on, and the sun went down in the west; still the interloper, 
gloomy and taciturn, made no signs of departing. But as the evening ad- 
vanced (whether the darkness was congenial to his sombre thoughts, or 
whether it merely chanced so) he seem'd to grow more affable and communi- 
cative, and informed Gills that he should pass the night there, tendering him 
at the same time ample remuneration, which the latter accepted with many 

" Tell me," said he to his aged host, when they were all sitting around the 
ample hearth, at the conclusion of their evening meal, " tell me something to 
while away the hours." 

" Ah! sir," answered Gills, "this is no place for new or interesting events. 
We live here from year to year, and at the end of one we find ourselves at 
about the same place which we filled in the beginning." 

"Can you relate nothing, then?" rejoin'd the guest, and a singular smile 
.pass'd over his features; " can you say nothing about your own place ? — this 
house or its former inhabitants, or former history ? " 

The old man glanced across to his wife, and a look expressive of sympathetic 
feeling started in the face of each. 

" It is an unfortunate story, sir," said Gills, " and may cast a chill upon you, 
instead of the pleasant feeling which it would be best to foster when in strange 

" Strange walls! " echoed he of the red scarf, and for the first time since 
his arrival he half laughed, but it was not the laugh which comes from a man's 

" You must know, sir," continued Gills, " I am myself a sort of intruder 


here. The Vanhomes — that was the name of the former residents and 
owners — I have never seen ; for when I came to these parts the last occupant 
had left to join the red-coat soldiery. I am told that he is to sail with them 
for foreign lands, now that the war is ended, and his property almost certain 
to pass into other hands." 

As the old man went on, the stranger cast down his eyes, and listen'd with 
an appearance of great interest, though a transient smile or a brightening of 
the eye would occasionally disturb the serenity of his deportment. 

" The old owners of this place," continued the white-haired narrator, "were 
well off in the world, and bore a good name among their neighbors. The 
brother of Sergeant Vanhome, now the only one of the name^ died ten or 
twelve years since, leaving a son— a child so small that the father's will made 
provision for his being brought up by his uncle, whom I'mention'd but now 
as of the British army. He was a strange man, this uncle ; disliked by all 
who knew him ; passionate, vindictive, and, it was said, very avaricious, even 
from his childhood. 

" Well, not long after the death of the parents, dark stories began to be cir- 
culated about cruelty and punishment and whippings and starvation inflicted 
by the new master upon his nephew. People who had business at the home- 
stead would frequently, when they came away, relate the most fearful things 
of its manager, and how he misused his brother's child. It was half hinted 
that he strove to get the youngster out of the way in order that the whole estate 
might fall into his own hands. As I told you before, however, nobody liked 
the man ; and perhaps they judged him too uncharitably. 

" After things had gone on in this way for some time, a countryman, a 
laborer, who was hired to do farm-work upon the place, one evening observed 
that the little orphan Vanhome was more faint and pale even than usual, for he 
was always delicate, and that is one reason why I think it possible that his 
death, of which I am now going to tell you, was but the result of his own 
weak constitution, and nothing else. The laborer slept that night at the farm- 
house. Just before the time at which they usually retired to bed, this person, 
feeling sleepy with his day's toil, left the kitchen hearth and wended his way 
to rest. In going to his place of repose he had to pass a chamber — the very 
chamber where you, sir, are to sleep to-night — and there he heard the voice 
of the orphan child uttering half-suppress'd exclamations as if in pitiful en- 
treaty. Upon stopping, he heard also the tones of the elder Vanhome, but 
they were harsh and bitter. The sound of blows followed. As each one fell 
it was accompanied by a groan or shriek, and so they continued for some time. 
Shock'd and indignant, the countryman would have burst open the door and 
interfered to prevent this brutal proceeding, but he bethought him that he might 
get himself into trouble, and perhaps find that he could do no good after all, 
and so he passed on to his room. 

" Well, sir, the following day the child did not come out among the work- 
people as usual. He was taken very ill. No physician was sent for until the 
next afternoon; and though one arrived in the course of the night, it was too 
late — the poor boy died before morning. 

" People talk'd threateningly upon the subject, but nothing could be proved 
against Vanhome. At one period there were efforts made to have the whole 
affair investigated. Perhaps that would have taken place, had not every one's 
attention been swallow'd up by the rumors of difficulty and war, which were 
then beginning to disturb the country. 

" Vanhome joined the army of the king. His enemies said that he feared 
to be on the side of the rebels, because if they were routed his property would 
be taken from him. But events have shown that, if this was indeed what he 

352 COLLECT— (Appendix). 

dreaded, i